Carbon Dioxide Removal

There’s a bit of a debate going on a about economics and ethics, mostly on MT’s blog, but also on Stoat, and a little bit here. I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what people are actually disagreeing about, as it seems to be more about how one should use economic models, than about what is actually ethically/morally right, or wrong. However, I came across a Carbon Brief Guest Post that would seem to indicate that we’re not alone in not agreeing about the role of economic modelling.

The Carbon Brief post is by Glen Peters and Oliver Geden, and discusses who will deliver the negative emissions to avoid 2C of warming. The context is essentially that we’ve now got to the stage where if we still wish to achieve a target of keeping warming below 2oC, then we may need to rely on technologies such as negative emissions, or carbon dioxide removal (CDR).

I wanted to simply highlight a few comments in the article that I found interesting. For example

Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) also indicate that it is cheaper to have large-scale CDR in the future, than to have deeper mitigation now.

However, it also says

[t]he criticism mainly focused on the conceptual use of untested methods of CDR to keep global warming below 2C above pre-industrial levels in model simulations, the potential risks of deploying CDR technologies at scale, and the role of science in climate policy negotiations.

So, some economic models suggest its cheaper to deploy CDR in the future, rather than undertaking deep mitigation now, despite CDR being largely untested, and there being risks associated with deploying at scale.

Another key part of the article was the political implications of deploying CDR, saying

[m]ost discussions of CDR have been at the global level. This is an unhelpful focal point, as individual actors must deliver CDR. A suitable compromise is the national level, which is particularly useful for climate policy negotiations.

This potentially creates significant political obstacles, for example

The output from the IAMs gives an indication of cost-optimal pathways, but these may deviate substantially from politically-optimal pathways. …..

India and others could argue that they should not provide CDR at a scale like the EU and the US, countries who have a much larger historical contribution to current climate change.

and

…. Brazil might argue the modelling assumptions behind one particular model overestimate the BECCS potential in Brazil, other countries may argue the opposite.

Okay, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. Mainly, that this seems very complex and its not clear that there is any kind of simple answer. Do we have a specific target, or do we try to develop some kind of optimal pathway based on a cost-benefit analysis (as I discussed in this post)? Do we focus on technologies that we are confident can be deployed, or rely on technologies that have yet to be developed, and that may carry their own risks, such as CDR? Do we focus on the global scale, or do we try to incorporate the political realities of trying to actually implement the various possible solutions on the local scale?

I don’t have any good answers, but I’m not really convinced any else does either. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, though.

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77 Responses to Carbon Dioxide Removal

  1. RICKA says:

    Yep – there is no plan and never was.

    Merely wishful thinking on keeping the temperature increase below 1.5C or 2.0C.

    A plan would be to generate, say, 70% of all electricity with nuclear by 2035 (pick a year) and put a treaty together to accomplish that. That would be “easy” in the sense we have the technology to generate nuclear power and already use it for 20% of world electricity.

    In America we have 100 nuclear power plants and generate 20% of our electricity with them.

    Just double to 200 and generate 40% and double again and generate 80% (maybe less because of demand growth).

    Can it be done – yes.

    Carbon capture has to be invented first.

    Renewables cannot meet 70 or 80% of demand, because it gets dark and sometimes its not windy and we have no storage technology yet that can store enough power.

    Really – nuclear is the only viable plan – but for some reason (fear) we refuse to go down that path.

  2. Rick,

    Really – nuclear is the only viable plan – but for some reason (fear) we refuse to go down that path.

    Except, I’m not even convinced that this is true. I can try to find the link, but – IIRC – Kevin Anderson has pointed out that if you want nuclear to provide a majority of electricity by, we would need to be building thousands. We’re building something like 70. Hence, it would seem that even nuclear isn’t some kind of simple solution. This isn’t an argument against it, though.

  3. RICKA says:

    Agreed – it is not simple. But it is technically feasible. None of the other “plans” are technically feasible. It depends on how important people feel avoiding 2C of future warming actually is – if so they need to ditch the fear of radiation.

  4. Rick,
    Okay, yes, I agree that compared to something like CDR, Nuclear is feasible. However, I’m not convinced that it is – and should be – the only solution.

  5. verytallguy says:

    That IAMS show CDR to be preferred to reducing current emissions is the absolute proof required that IAMS specifically and more generally discounting in general, are utterly useless when it comes to defining optimal policy for long range issues such as climate change.

    It’s hard to overemphasise what an utterly and bizarrely ludicrous conclusion this is, given land use requirements for BECCS, and overall energy and resource needs for atmospheric drawdown. Not to mention that CCS is unproven at scale, and the implications of not acting now on the trajectory of future emissions.

  6. vtg,
    Yes, the land use requirements for BECCS (if CDR is to be deployed at the kind of scale required) is something like the size of India, or larger.

  7. While I don’t think that a carbon tax is the be-all/end-all of climate policy, this is exactly the sort of problem for which it provides potential simplifications: we don’t need to figure out the right balance of CDR/renewables/nuclear/energy-efficiency/etc. up-front, if we can just agree on a carbon price pathway.

    Of course, there are a still tricky parts. The obvious first one is deciding on the price pathway: see all the arguments about the right way to calculate an SCC – which IAMs to use, which discount rate to use, and so on. The second is actually getting countries to sign on (this is probably the biggest hurdle, even if – or especially if – we have differentiated carbon prices depending on economic development). But third come questions of economic failures beyond just the obvious “externality” which a carbon price fixes: a price may not adequately stimulate R&D, we have to decide what to do with the money raised (I like tax & dividend to all citizens within the country where the emissions happen, but there are many other possibilities), how to get rid of perverse subsidies (since a carbon tax won’t work if it just gets turned around and used to subsidize the fossil fuel industry), how to calculate and regulate LULUCF (and CDR!), whether to use GWP100 for non-CO2 gases, how to account for aerosols and ozone precursors and albedo changes, dealing with adaptation, with environmental justice, with sectors where consumers appear to be particularly non-rational (e.g., consumers seem to discount fuel-efficiency at some crazy rates), and so forth…

  8. Oh, and since we are talking BECCS, it is also important to decide how to value/price land for biodiversity, recreation, food production, and other uses that might not be well-captured by markets.

  9. JoeB says:

    … and then store CO2 safely for thousands of years. It’s madness. We need to do the easier thing of cutting emissions now. Kevin Anderson estimates that 50% of emissions are from 10% of the population – and if the 50% reduced their emissions to the European average – still a good standard of living – that alone would reduce global emissions by about one third. In both world wars rationing was seen as necessary and fair and there is a well thought out system called Tradable Energy Quotas(teqs.net). TEQs could create an enforceable limit on how much CO2 is emitted in any year. Going further, bricks and cement are heavy energy users (CO2 emitters) and a) the three main political parties have no policy that will meet the housing needs of the young in a reasonable time b) there are estimates that there are 700,000 second homes in the UK, 600,000 second homes and the top 250,000 families have 8 or more rooms per person and c) when our coastal towns are inundated by sea level rise, a very large number of people will need to be rehoused … Given all of that why not have housing rationing? Also the average Brit buys seven T-shirts a year and most of the cotton is grown in water-scarce countries – meaning that soon-to-be bankrupt farmers will want to emigrate. So clothing rationing? Cows emit methane etc at scale, so meat and dairy rationing? The UK could get on with it and lead the way. If you don’t like it, tell me a better way of giving my grandchildren a decent chance of a fulfilling life.

  10. John Hartz says:

    Another dimension of the climate change/ethics nexus is analyzed in this just published paper…

    Impact of population growth and population ethics on climate change mitigation policy by Noah Scovronicka, Mark B. Budolfsonb, Francis Dennigc, Marc Fleurbaeya, Asher Sieberte, Robert H. Socolowf, Dean Spearsg, and Fabian Wagnera, PNAS, Published online before print October 30, 2017, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618308114

    The Significance statement of this paper reads as follows:

    We investigate how future population growth is relevant to climate change policy. The answer depends importantly on ethical questions about whether our ultimate goal should be to increase the number of people who are happy or rather to increase the average level of people’s happiness. We calculate the best (optimal) emissions reduction pathway given each of these two different goals that society might have and calculate how much cheaper it would be to avoid dangerous interference with the climate given a smaller rather than a larger population. We also show that whether it is ultimately better to have a smaller population in response to climate change depends on which of these two goals society chooses.

  11. Ken Fabian says:

    The problem I see is the overarching failure to commit to the fundamental goal of climate stability.

    Arguing if it’s economics or ethics, arguing if it’s renewables or nuclear, arguing if unconstrained growth with high emissions will lead to better outcomes than constrained growth with low emissions – legitimate as those discussions may be – continue to offer an effective means for justifying responsibility avoidance and delay of firm commitment – and avoidance and delay are desirable outcomes in and of themselves for major interests in the mire of climate and energy politics. In the inverted logic of climate politics delaying action until we are sure is actually tacit support for continuing strong global climate changing actions – ie it supports ongoing, unconstrained burning of fossil fuels.

    Right now we need to be doing what we can with what we have – and what we have can include relying on innovations in the pipeline, but they need to have already achieved or are close to viability. It’s a lot bigger ask to commit to pathways relying upon innovations that are not close to viability.

    CCS will struggle with the inconvenient fact that there is 2.8 tons of CO2 for each ton of quality black coal burned – a waste stream that is always going to be bigger than and in addition to the fossil fuel supply stream. CDR -CO2 drawdown – just moves where and how compared to CCS but doesn’t change that essential, unwelcome arithmetic; there is so much CO2 that making less in the interim still looks more cost effective than dealing with it after.

    Nuclear has it’s own complications, security, political and economic but, much more than renewables, it absolutely needs that fundamental commitment to climate action to be broadly based, rock solid and enduring if it is ever to be deployed at the scales people like RickA suggest. To be effective nuclear advocacy has to be about climate climate risks and fossil fuels not about stopping ‘green politics’ and renewable energy. It can’t continue to be aligned with antithetical climate science denial and obstructionist agendas and achieve the depth of support it needs to overcome the impediments, only some of which are down to exaggerated fear and unpopularity.

    We ultimately can’t know how the later stages of a transition to low emissions – or, if you prefer, to low atmospheric GHG’s – will play out but that’s the kind of uncertainty that’s true of any longer term goals.

  12. John Hartz says:

    Ken Fabian: Your post reminds me of the famous Yogi Berra quote:

    “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

  13. Ken Fabian says:

    John H, I suppose I am guilty of urging a commitment to low emissions using renewable energy without knowing how the later stages of that transition can be achieved – some ground changing breakthroughs, which can’t be relied upon, would be very welcome. I certainly don’t think technological growth is unbounded – that if we just wait long enough we’ll get the technologies we most want and need. More likely it is an S-curve that follows in aggregate the way individual technologies develop. I don’t think the choices to use renewables in the near term lock out other options later on. But that fundamental commitment, no matter if it’s framed by economics or by ethics or by other things like ideology or religious belief, remains the essential ingredient for making climate stability our enduring legacy.

    I don’t have any intrinsic or ideological objections to nuclear but I do have serious reservations about it at the scales required. I don’t see how that could be achieved in a timely manner without government command and control interventions on emissions and energy far more extreme than what we’ve seen so far. I struggle to see how that level of agreement and commitment can emerge.

    Yet I think we are actually in a very interesting and unexpected place with regards to renewables – where they are competing and being taken up on their own merits even within a market that has a huge ongoing de-facto subsidy in place – the amnesty on externalised costs for fossil fuels. The consequences of that are changing energy systems, ready or not. And also surprisingly, there are serious commercial enterprises who appear more ready for that than we have any right to expect.

    Meanwhile I don’t see CCS or CDR as being anywhere near enough to viability to have any effect on the choices we have to be making now; deserving of some support in case that should change, but I’d be wary of making choices to delay doing the things we can do in the hope that they will fix things for us later.

  14. T-rev says:

    It’s to allow the can to be kicked down the road and no mitigation done now.

    Kevin Anderson does some work on it here, analysed by Andy (RIP)

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/Anderson.html

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Here is a discussion paper about some new research, possibly controversial, which suggests that only by keeping global warming below 1.5 °C is sea level rise considerably slowed. Even then, we are on a trajectory towards eventually having a much warmer global temperature and substantial, quasi-permanent, high sea stand.
    http://www.nature.com/news/antarctic-model-raises-prospect-of-unstoppable-ice-collapse-1.19638

    For more information on this see
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/561/back-future

    As for negative emissions, I conclude that is the only way to avoid eventual high sea stands. Carbon dioxide levels of, say, 285 ppm are necessary. I suggest starting by planting a great many trees; most of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback all planted should absorb about 2–3 ppm per annum. That together with the elimination of all use of fossil fuels will eventually get there at the cost of a higher sea stand.

  16. Ken Fabian says:

    David, I suspect that even without climate change effects tree planting – or rather tree survival and growth – will remain very undependable in arid zones. With climate change some of those zones may get less arid but even those may see overall rainfall averages rise, but that could be, as in Australia’s North West, from extreme events not as anything reliable. Other areas, becoming more arid as well as warmer, will lose vegetation.

    There are good reasons for (re)forestation but I’m not convinced they can be relied upon to sequester much CO2 except in places with more reliable rainfall – and thus more competition with agriculture.

  17. David B. Benson says:

    Ken Fabien — See “Irrigated Afforestation of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback to …” by Len Orstein et al. This of course implies massive desalination to provide the irrigation water. From the paper one obtains the notion that it would be rather an expensive undertaking. So would anything else on the scale required.

  18. angech says:

    Coal is carbon captured.
    Safe , storable for thousands of years without breaking down quickly into coal seam gases and methane.
    Carbon capture after the CO2 is produced is a variant of the perpetual motion machine idea. No matter how it is designed more coal will have to be burned to run the machines capturing the CO2.

    How would this be for an idea?
    Collect all the vegetable refuse possible, lawn clippings, hay, wood chips etc. Compress severely and bury in the deserts or used up mines.
    Small cheese in the overall CO2 production but given vegetation is the biggest easily accessible producer of CO2 as it degrades it would reduce part of natures excessive contribution. Guess it is just one of the ideas already out there.

  19. ATTP – It seems we always end up in the same place. CO2 concentrations remain high, so even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, we’d still need to such out at least 53ppm (and rising) to get to 350.org’s goal; hence we need CDR. Then a bun fight starts between BECCS and Nuclear proponents. Is there an alternative?

    Pacala & Socolow’s stabilization of wedges were not about removal, but about getting to zero emissions.

    However, Project Drawdown is explicitly aimed at both cutting emissions and sequestering carbon. So far I have seen the book and the web site, but more detail (the ‘working’) is promised. 80 solutions are assessed for the ability to prevent GHG emissions or to sequester carbon. It covers proven solutions, and realistic levels of scaling of these over a period 2020-2050.
    http://www.drawdown.org

    It’s an interesting approach and I prefer 80 solutions that can be taken forward at community level, bottom up, and are not reliant on big government, with big engineering, to save us (we could wait a long time).

    Then there is the personal actions that do work. Peter Kalmus describes in his book how he went from a US level of 20 tCO2/yr to 2 tCO2/yr, emphasising Kevin Anderson’s point that reduction in consumption is the only feasible short-term action, a phase 1. This is followed by perhaps the 80 Drawdown solutions, call that phase 2; and then maybe a phase 3 is needed to do a kind of BECCS or whatever.

    But isn’s arguing about BECCS a great displacement activity – far easier to argue about it than act – to do a phase 1 and phase 2?

  20. izen says:

    On the 500th anniversary of Luther I am sure there is an analogy to be drawn between the selling of indulgences to negate current sins and promises of future drawndown of CO2 to avoid a hot hell.

  21. Richard,

    if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, we’d still need to such out at least 53ppm (and rising) to get to 350.org’s goal;

    If I’m being pedantic, then this isn’t correct. If we stopped all emissions, then we would (over maybe 100 years or so) drop to below 350ppm. The problem, as the article says, is

    There may be some activities where it is simply too expensive to mitigate completely. These “residual emissions” may occur in industry (e.g. metals production), transport (e.g. aviation), and agriculture (e.g. methane from rice and cattle).

    and it doesn’t much for concentrations to continue rising. Hence, we may indeed need CDR, even if we do undertake deep emission cuts, in order to account for the residual emissions from activities where we don’t have any viable alternative.

  22. I wasn’t saying we wouldn’t need CDR (phase 3), but that in the pecking order of bangs for buck right now, start with phase 1 (short term), then phase 2 (medium term) and, when we’ve worked out how to do it, phase 3 (long term, maybe very long term). My points was about where to start/ priorities. Debating phase 3 while we fly to the next conference is I think defined as ‘denial’.

  23. My points was about where to start/ priorities. Debating phase 3 while we fly to the next conference is I think defined as ‘denial’.

    Yes, I do wish we could at least agree to do something, rather than arguing about which technology that we can’t yet implement is going to be the one that saves us. My own view is that it will all play some kind of role, rather than there being one main solution.

  24. Chubbs says:

    Echoing some of the comments above. One of the reasons a carbon tax is preferred is because the future is uncertain and models are unreliable. Neither the price of oil and other fossil fuels or the pace of technology development can be forecast with any accuracy. Fossil vs non-fossil is particularly challenging because fossil fuels are commodities while the alternatives are technologies. Go back and look at forecasts from 10 years ago. If solar outperforms the current forecast as much as it did the 10-year old forecast, carbon storage/removal will not be needed. On the other hand with a clear pricing incentive, progress on carbon storage could accelerate to facilitate the continued use of fossil fuels and in the long-term carbon removal.

  25. pete best says:

    I see that Kevin Anderson is being mentioned a lot here and his videos and interviews are being widely posted. Here is one where a journalist asks him some interesting questions:

    In essence he is saying that his analysis is accurate and realistic although at odds with the consensus on public converse perhaps

  26. Pete,
    Thanks, fascinating. He certainly doesn’t mince his words. I’m still slightly surprised that Kevin Anderson doesn’t seem to get much flack because of what he says (which is not to suggest that I think what he says is wrong, or that he deserves it). I don’t know if this is because he’s too low profile, or because it is actually pretty hard to rebut what he presents (he’s certainly pretty good with the numbers).

  27. ATTP/Pete – it also helps that Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows practice what they say (not preach). That gives them a lot of credibility. I remember a video of a conference Q&A, I think in North Africa somewhere, with a auditorium full of people. Everyone was standing up to give their talks. Then Alice Bows turn came. She skyped in. Say no more.

  28. Photosynthesis of carbon dioxide into carbohydrates is the prime source of biological energy on which nearly all surface life depends. Seems foolish to try and remove it.

  29. TE,
    Are you actually playing the “CO2 is plant food” card? You do realise that the suggestion isn’t to remove it all.

  30. JCH says:

    Unbelievable.

  31. guthrie says:

    DOn’t waste your time on TE, they wilfully don’t understand what you are saying.

  32. That Carbon Brief post (published October 30/17) tosses around the questions of “which countries are going to start CDR first? And, which countries will deliver the bulk of the CDR?”

    But interestingly enough, just 4 days earlier, one of the co-authors (Peters) was wondering about what seems to be an even more fundamental question: How much CDR do we need?

    Or, more specifically, he was wondering “The large-scale carbon dioxide removal in emission scenarios is becoming better known, but is it just a consequence of high discount rates?”

    Which leads down the familiar rabbit hole of “what is the right discount rate?”, but as Peters questions at the end:

    “The current generation of energy-system integrated assessment models don’t seem to do much sensitivity analysis. I have long wondered if low discount rates would lead to lower levels of carbon dioxide removal.

    […]

    I am sure there are other studies here and there, but I am not aware of a comprehensive analysis. Such an analysis is needed, and could be important to understand technology deployment in the current generation of emission scenarios.

    Is our love of carbon dioxide removal, and soon solar geoengineering, simply because we discount the future? I would love an answer to that question. Any takers?”

    … and then closes with some graphs that show that the sensitivity to discount rates is YUGE!

  33. Rust,

    … and then closes with some graphs that show that the sensitivity to discount rates is YUGE!

    I thought the main reason for the variations in the pathways in those later graphs was due to whether you tried to determine a cost-benefit pathway, or aimed for some specific target.

  34. No, there are 4 scenarios. Roughly, (1) baseline, (2) optimal cba with Nordhaus (existing practice) discounting, (3) specific temperature target (2.5C), (4) optimal cba with Stern (low) discounting.

    It just so happens that 4 tends to mirror 3.

  35. Rust,
    But if 4 tends to mirror 3, doesn’t that imply it’s not that dependent on discount rate (which does seem surprising to me)?

  36. Essentially, both the Nordhaus and Stern “solutions” “solve” for an “optimal” temperature in 2100. 3.5C and 2.5C respectively, and the difference is the discount rate…

    And note again that the second graph has FOUR plots on it, it just so happens that the Stern and “forced 2.5C” plots are indistinguishable.

    You may risk getting into it with Stoat and Mosher again – revealed preferences, and all – but it is almost as though you can’t agree upfront about a temperature target. Instead the “target” is determined by your assumption on interest (discount) rates… Which is totally subjective. Go figure…

  37. I don’t follow your last question (and about to go to the subway…)

  38. Rust,
    Okay, I think I see what you’re saying. However, I had interpreted those figures differently (which may be my error). My understanding of the 3.5C pathway, is that that is what comes out of an estimate based on an optimal cost-benefit analysis. The 2.5C pathway, however, was determined by actively aiming for 2.5C. It’s not necessary (I think) for the difference to be due to the discount rate. In fact, I had thought the discount rates were the same for all the scenarios, apart from for the Stern scenario.

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    “In essence he is saying that his analysis is accurate and realistic although at odds with the consensus on public converse perhaps”

    dang he was hard on academics telling the truth and whole truth and nothing but the truth…

    weird attack on science

  40. John Hartz says:

    The following two articles should remind us all that time is not on our side.

    Climate change fueling disasters, disease in ‘potentially irreversible’ ways, report warns by Ben Guarino & Brady Dennis, Health & Science, Washington Post, Oct 30, 2017

    UN warns of ‘unacceptable’ greenhouse gas emissions gap by Fiona Harvey, Guardian, Oct 31, 2017

  41. John Hartz says:

    Ken Fabian: My Yogi Berra comment was meant as black humor.

  42. Steven,

    dang he was hard on academics telling the truth and whole truth and nothing but the truth…

    My impression is that he thinks they aren’t telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I expect that many think they are, which rather illustrates the problem.

  43. Steven Mosher says:

    but attp.
    his story about the guy he had a pint with.
    saying one thing in private and another in public.. surely that person has to know they are shading the truth..

    worserer than being a denier

  44. Canman says:

    Kevin Anderson has pointed out that if you want nuclear to provide a majority of electricity by, we would need to be building thousands.

    Whatever that number is, It’s probably similar to the number of wind turbines needed to provide the output of one of those nuclear plants.

  45. Free Transit says:

    The root cause is sprawl and growth. The fix is to abolish cars. The pathway is fare-free urban buses.

  46. Canman,

    Whatever that number is, It’s probably similar to the number of wind turbines needed to provide the output of one of those nuclear plants.

    That doesn’t really change the point, though; it seems unlikely that nuclear will dominate in the next few decades.

  47. Steven,

    saying one thing in private and another in public.. surely that person has to know they are shading the truth..

    That person might, be he seemed to be suggsting a much bigger issue than simply one person.

  48. pete best says:

    When Mr Anderson says we probably wont achieve 2C he knows what the current political climate is like.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/01/fossil-fuel-companies-undermining-paris-agreement-negotiations-report

    In addition to this when people here argue for a given technology to be favoured over another I would point out that all renewable and zero/low carbon technologies will be needed to replace fossil fuels without lowering existing living standards and allowing up and coming countries to dream of emulating the west. Be prepared to see masses of solar farms, wind farms and new nuclear.

  49. angech says:

    “The root cause is sprawl and growth. The fix is to abolish cars. The pathway is fare-free urban buses.”
    Down to one car , two people. Do you know the misery it causes? As for urban buses it is obvious you do not live in the country or need to go anywhere in a hurry!

  50. Down to one car , two people. Do you know the misery it causes?

    I think this is referred to as a first-world problem.

  51. BBD says:

    angech

    Down to one car , two people. Do you know the misery it causes? As for urban buses it is obvious you do not live in the country or need to go anywhere in a hurry!

    Only one car in this family (me, mrs BBD and our 10 yr old) and only ever will be. We manage. It can be done. We live in a town having taken a deliberate decision not to move to a rural location although we both wanted to. People have agency but then must exercise it occasionally. It’s like not flying for holidays. We don’t do that either and we have great holidays.

    It may be that these kinds of choices are easier and preferable to the consequences of not making them.

  52. verytallguy says:

    As for urban buses it is obvious you do not live in the country or need to go anywhere in a hurry!

    On your bike!

  53. BBD says:

    On your bike!

    Sadly and ironically, the rural lanes of Hampshire are offputtingly lethal for cyclists because of @r5holes in £80k Range Rovers hurtling along them at 50mph. While yakking on their phones, of course.

    /rant

  54. verytallguy says:

    Sadly and ironically,

    Irony upon irony, the sedentary lifestyle of the arseoisie in the RRs actually puts them at more risk than the cyclists they intimidate off the roads.

  55. mt says:

    It is necessary for honesty to say the same *thing* in public and in private, but one does not say them the same *way* or emphasize the same things.

    That is a big part of what makes the problem of how to communicate publicly difficult.

  56. Steven Mosher says:

    good find mt Im reading it now
    http://www.pitt.edu/~gordonm/Pubdeb/Ziman.pdf

  57. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of the transportation sector, here’s some encouraging news…

    Beyond Electric Cars: As China Leads in Electric Buses, India Could Follow Suit in Electric Motorcycles by Srikanth Shastry, World Resources Institute (WRI), Oct 31, 2017

  58. JoeB says:

    Free Transit “The root cause is sprawl and growth. The fix is to abolish cars. The pathway is fare-free urban buses.”
    Abolish cars and urban buses? Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows do not to fly. People like to choose. Rationing would give everyone choices within limits. The danger from climate change is much greater than in the world wars. Tradable Energy Quotas(teqs.net) would force individuals, businesses and other organisations to economise. Everyone would be engaged.

  59. Mal Adapted says:

    The piece by John Ziman is worth the effort, mt. Thanks!

  60. John Hartz says:

    Jeremy Lent sketches a very interesting take on what the future may hold in…

    The Cruel, Topsy-Turvy Economics of Collapse by Jeremy Lent, Patterns of Meaning, Oct 31, 2017

    The tease-line for this blog post article:

    Contrary to common sense, we could experience booming GDP and stock market valuations all the way to society’s imminent collapse.

  61. Canman says:

    A couple thousand nuclear plants are a tragically over-optimistic delusion. A couple million wind turbines are a statistic.

  62. angech says:

    I see a fully wind, water and solar USA paper getting a bit of flack elsewhere by an 80% renewable lot. Interesting.
    BBD, I cycle occasionally. Much less since a near death experience [missed] where the truck cleaned up my mate after missing me last year. He is OK now. Finally getting my nerve back a little.

  63. Ken Fabian says:

    Canman – “A couple thousand nuclear plants are a tragically over-optimistic delusion. A couple million wind turbines are a statistic.”

    That looks about correct. About 20% of those couple of million wind turbines are already in operation – although as long as wind continues to be cost effective it won’t stop at a couple of million. Big numbers? Huge numbers in an absolute sense, but relatively, given the scale of the global economy I think not that big at all.

    I think that, unlike cumulative piecemeal solutions like wind and solar, grand scale nuclear plans cannot be done at all as long as the mire of political divisiveness about climate and emissions continues. Only broad, non-partisan and enduring acceptance of the reality and seriousness of climate risks can build the groundswell of political will to embark on a program to build those thousands of nuclear plants.

    Canman, the juxtaposition of support for nuclear with non-acceptance of climate science and reconciling the contradictions is something I find I keep coming back to; it seems to me that people such as yourself (and perhaps RickA) are living examples of this curious conundrum.

    Me (at Eli’s) – “Canman, do you accept the reality and seriousness of anthropogenic climate change? ”

    You – “Ken, I’m not convinced, but I don’t completely dismiss it. I don’t even completely dismiss Hansen’s claim that we’ll turn into Venus. If it’s serious, it’s a long-term problem. 20 years makes little difference. ”

    Isn’t a willingness to putting wind turbines on hold for 20 years while we wait for more certainty also willingness to wait another 20 years before any commitment to building thousands of nuclear plants as well as? Let’s leave aside for now whether waiting another 20 years – with unconstrained use and possibly growth of fossil fuel burning – can be reconciled with the “don’t completely dismiss anthropogenic climate change” position; I’m interested in reconciling what looks like a serious lack of commitment for emissions reductions with an enduring commitment to build thousands of nuclear plants to reduce emissions.

    If the climate and emissions issues are not important to you then why support those nuclear power plants? If it is to displace and prevent wind turbines, but not to displace coal, gas and oil then why nuclear at all? Why not directly opt for coal, gas and oil? Why would you support such a program if you have no commitment to emissions reductions? Or if it’s health rather than climate externalities, why nuclear rather than tighter pollution standards? If it came down to it – to heavily subsidising and mandating nuclear power to displace fossil fuels – I am not convinced you have enough reason to actually fight for it.

    I think that contradiction has been and is a major contributing reason why there has been inadequate support for nuclear; too many people who like nuclear – or accept it or don’t care – don’t care enough about climate and emissions or even nuclear power itself to support the things that would make it happen, like ending the ongoing amnesty on externalised climate and health costs of fossil fuels (ie support carbon pricing), that would raise it above coal, gas and oil.

    Climate science denial and obstructionism has been bad for renewables, but it’s been even worse for nuclear.

  64. John Hartz says:

    As a citizen of the US, it pains me to post a link to this this article. Trump and his cronies have sold their souls to the fossil fuel industry and Putin is smiling all the way to his bank. Goodspeed to Robert Mueller and his team.

    Trump’s pick to lead NASA reveals controversial global warming views by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, Nov 1, 2017

  65. Canman says:

    Ken, there’s another good reason to support nuclear power — concern over peak oil. I’ve seen a lot of peak oil scares come and go and they always look scary. Looking at the history of these scares has generally made me dismissive of peak oil, but I’ll have to say that looking at trends in fossil fuel use and reading the writings of Rud Istvan and Fernando Leanme do make me concerned.

    Nuclear has problems with perception and cheep natural gas, but there’s another problem. It’s in competition with renewables for CO2 free energy and politicians have given renewables an unfair advantage with renewable portfolio standards that exclude nuclear. If states could decide between the two, they might take the long term view and give some thoughts to grid stability and conserving some of that natural gas. Renewables are going to need a lot of that natural gas for backup. Nuclear will actually displace it and as an added benefit keep the price lower, thereby, keeping more expensive to access gas in the ground.

  66. Marco says:

    Canman, add the high initial costs and large uncertainty to the problem of nuclear power. An example: In France, very experienced with nuclear power plants, its latest plant has been under construction since 2007, and was supposed to be done in 2012, at a cost of 3.3 billion euros. Already five years ago, with a delay to 2016 at that time, costs had increased to 8.3 billion euro.

    So, the investors have found themselves with a much bigger investment than originally planned, and already more than 5 years delay before they can expect to slowly see something coming back. And they won’t see the investment back for decades.

  67. Ken Fabian says:

    Canman, that doesn’t sound to me like you see such real and urgent need for nuclear that you would support the policies actually needed for the “thousands of nuclear plants” to displace fossil fuels. If you don’t accept the emissions and climate connection I doubt you will accept that fossil fuels have a long running unfair advantage through the de-facto subsidy from the enduring amnesty on externalised costs – and that affects perceptions of subsidies for other energy technologies.

    Renewable plans and agencies to deal with renewables may exclude nuclear – but nuclear, by it’s unique nature, requires it’s own set of rules and regulations, (and subsidies). Dealing with nuclear separately is sensible and having agencies in support of renewables does not prevent having agencies in support of nuclear.

    Refusal to accept the seriousness of the climate problem continues to be a profound problem for enacting solutions – and it affects support for nuclear disproportionately. I think climate science denial has been more inhibiting to nuclear than anti-nuclear activism – and, whilst it also inhibits renewables, nuclear requires a greater level of agreement on transition to low emissions than renewables. And then there is the economics.

  68. Canman says:

    Nuclear power is an extremely complicated issue and I’m not a very good long comment writer. I think most of nuclear’s problems are political rather than economic. Perfectly good plants are being shut down. These expensive new plants are new and improved designs and there’s still a learning curve. With more production and experience, there’s no reason costs can’t come down and approval processes can’t be streamlined. Will investors put billions into single plants. They have no trouble putting funds into giant off shore oil platforms. There’s also the issue of current light water reactors vs newer unmeltdownable designs. I think getting some proof of concept medels running ought to be a high priority.

    I don’t think the political problems are insurmountable and I do see signs that the tide may be turning:

  69. canman,

    I think most of nuclear’s problems are political rather than economic.

    I agree that a bit part of the issue is political, but I’m not convinced that there aren’t other very important factors. One simple one. Do we have enough suitably trained people to build, and maintain/run, thousands of nuclear reactors? I don’t think we do. We could start training them, but we haven’t really started yet and this doesn’t seem like something you can do quickly.

  70. Canman says:

    The press conference that got these four labeled as deniers by Naomi Oreskes:

  71. The press conference that got these four labeled as deniers by Naomi Oreskes:

    I think labelling them as deniers was silly. However, it seems to me that if we end up stopping fighting about AGW, we’ll just start fighting about what solutions we should implement (as may have already happened). Maybe we are just incapable of addressing something without fighting about what to do?

  72. JoeB says:

    Canman and ATTP,
    I think most of nuclear’s problems are political rather than economic.

    Not so. 1) Nuclear sites and fission products have to be kept safe for thousands(?) of years. Even wealthy countries cannot keep city streets safe. Concrete or whatever will need to be renewed or replaced every so often – a burden on future generations. 2) Most UK nuclear power stations are close to the sea. Anderson says 1.5 degrees C now virtually impossible. At 2 degrees, locked in sea-level rise is 4.7 m (3.0 – 6.3 66% confidence) [http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/uploads/research/Global-Mapping-Choices-Report.pdf] and then there will be storms. 3) When faults are detected or improvements devised, nuclear iteration times can be about a decade. Iteration for solar can be as little as months and wind not all that much more. 4) Tendency for big nuclear units and centralised distribution network. Local has advantages. 5) To build thousands of nuclear plants will involve continuing output of CO2 for the steel and concrete. It will be decades before there is a CO2 advantage. 6) Costs of nuclear continually rise. Costs of wind and solar are dropping dramatically [Tony Seba – Clean disruption]. Batteries and other storage costs are dropping. 7) Sufficient wind and solar for spring and autumn will mean summer surpluses which could be used to produce hydrogen from water by electrolysis – H2 with CO2 can create methane to be stored for winter in existing infrastructure (at least on the continent – the UK has relied on North Sea gas and removed its gasometers). H2 and microbes can create liquid fuel for winter – to be stored in existing infrastructure [Chris Goodall – The Switch] 8) We need to get on with cutting energy use because, Anderson says, we are on track for even higher temperatures – and even more sea-level rise.

  73. Steven Mosher says:

    in korea a panel of citizens are selected and then educated and then they decide.
    the president was smart to listen to his people.

  74. jacksmith4tx says:

    All thermal power plants that use boilers need clean, cool water. As the global temperatures rise and access to clean water become more stressed this could become a limiting factor.
    The global demand for water and energy is projected to grow, but there likely will be significant constraints in our ability to keep meeting it. These constraints will be imposed partly by the interdependence between water, energy, and climate change. If left unchecked, these connections can exacerbate water and energy shortages and aggravate climate change impacts.

    Here is a research paper that looks at some of the problems.
    Thermal effluent from the power sector:
    An analysis of once-through cooling system impacts on surface water temperature.
    http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035006/pdf

  75. Willard says:

    Building nukes is possible, but it carries political costs:

    Analysis of the economics of nuclear power must take into account who bears the risks of future uncertainties. To date all operating nuclear power plants were developed by state-owned or regulated utility monopolies where many of the risks associated with political change and regulatory ratcheting were borne by consumers rather than suppliers. Many countries have now liberalized the electricity market where these risks, and the risk of cheap competition from subsidised energy sources emerging before capital costs are recovered, are borne by plant suppliers and operators rather than consumers, which leads to a significantly different evaluation of the risk of investing in new nuclear power plants.

    Two of the four EPRs under construction (the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in Finland and Flamanville in France), which are the latest new builds in Europe, are significantly behind schedule and substantially over cost. Following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, costs are likely to go up for some types of currently operating and new nuclear power plants, due to new requirements for on-site spent fuel management and elevated design basis threats.

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

    That Freedom Fighters fight for more nukes may always remain a mystery.

    Occupy Irak was cheap compared to how much the public will have to fork to switch to nukes.

  76. John Hartz says:

    Two new articles of note:

    Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World? by Elizabeth Kolbert, Annals of Science, The New Yorker, Nov 20, 2017 Print Edition

    Unregulated solar geoengineering could spark droughts and hurricanes, study warns by Daisy Dunne, Carbon Brief, Nov 14, 2017

  77. John Hartz says:

    A dire assessment by Kevin Anderson…

    ‘We have a 5 percent chance of success’

    Climate scientist Kevin Anderson is one of the world’s leading authorities on carbon budgets. He told DW keeping global warming below 2 degrees is a choice — but it’s one we have to make it fast.

    Interview by Charlotta Lomas, Deutsche Welle (DW), Nov 16, 2017

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