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Honey, I mitigated climate change

Posted on 27 March 2014 by Ari Jokimäki

Actions of mankind release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas concentrations have increased causing Earth to heat up, which has been evident during the last few decades. This global warming proceeds so fast that it causes problems for both the biosphere and mankind. These concerns have been largely noticed and the general attitude is that we will need to do something about the problem as soon as possible. There already are some limited efforts to do something about it. Although international policy decisions have not been forthcoming, there has been some action from different nations, corporations, citizen groups, and individual citizens.

The problem is largely in energy production, because for that we currently use mainly fossil fuels, which release a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burned. We are therefore looking to replace fossil fuels with something that doesn't release so much greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Examples of such energy production methods are wind power and solar power. These two are clearly good options. However, some of the options don't seem to be that good.

Natural gas and oil palms

Natural gas - issues with leaks and aerosols

There are a few fossil fuels which release different amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. One of these fossil fuels is natural gas, which releases clearly less greenhouse gases when burned than coal or oil. This is one of the reasons why there have been some efforts to increase natural gas usage. Unfortunately, looking merely at how much greenhouse gas is released when burned is a rather simplistic view. Lately it has been recognized that production of natural gas releases methane to the atmosphere through leaks from collection sites and transmission pipelines. This might negate the greenhouse gas benefits achieved during burning. If only a few percent of the natural gas leaks as methane into the atmosphere, then the natural gas usage has no greenhouse gas benefits at all compared to coal and oil. Some studies have reported much higher leaks than that.

From a climate perspective, there's also another problem with replacing coal with natural gas. Burning natural gas releases less aerosols to the atmosphere than coal. Aerosols have a cooling effect on the climate, so reducing aerosol emissions causes a warming effect. Therefore, replacing coal with natural gas has an additional warming effect (Hayhoe et al. 2002). This is a short-term effect, though, but the effect is timed so that it occurs just when we thought we would mitigate global warming by replacing coal with natural gas. However, we must remember that aerosols have harmful effects on human health, so reducing aerosol emissions may have some health benefits.

Bioenergy - issues with land-use

The basic bioenergy scheme hinges on the idea that we grow plants and then we burn them to get energy. Burning releases greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, but we grow next batch of plants which take carbon dioxide from atmosphere while growing. The amount of carbon dioxide taken from atmosphere is the same as that which is released when burning the plants. So, idealistically this is a net zero emission energy. Emphasis here is strongly on the word "idealistically", because we know that this is not truly a net zero energy (although some people, even some researchers, still keep claiming that). First, biomass transportation and bioenergy production produces some greenhouse gas emissions which already make this a larger than net zero emission energy.

Second, during the last few years, the research on the subject has found out that the land use relating to bioenergy production produces huge greenhouse gas emissions when forests are somehow included in the bioenergy production scenario. The emissions from land use are large enough to initially produce similar or even larger emissions than fossil fuels. Emissions get smaller with time, but for many bioenergy production scenarios the emission cuts are not very large, even after a hundred years. For some scenarios, bioenergy greenhouse gas emissions are larger than that of fossil fuels, even after a hundred years. There are some scenarios where bioenergy can be a good option, though. Such a scenario is to grow bioenergy plants in degraded agricultural land.

However, instead of concentrating on good bioenergy scenarios, we cut down rainforests to clear land for oil palm plantations. We even burn the rainforests out of the way (Suyanto et al. 2004). We cut forests to replace them with maize fields to produce biofuels. In such cases the carbon storage, which the forest has sequestered into the soil, is released into the atmosphere. All of this results in huge carbon dioxide emissions.

Worst case scenario

What if we use lots of natural gas and forest-related bioenergy to replace coal and oil, and if the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas and bioenergy are indeed as large as discussed above?

In such a case we would have replaced coal and oil with energy sources that have larger greenhouse gas emissions than coal and oil, at least in a 100-year window. But this is not yet the full story. We have replaced coal and oil with something we thought had less emissions, so we haven't done much else to reduce those greenhouse gas emissions. This means that not only have we increased our emissions, we have also lost potential emission reductions — twice as bad a situation as we thought we would have. The situation in real life might not be quite as bad as described here, but it may well be. Should we risk it?


Papers on gas leakage involving the natural gas industry

Papers on GHG emissions from bioenergy related land-use

Katharine Hayhoe, Haroon S. Kheshgi, Atul K. Jain, Donald J. Wuebbles, 2002, Substitution of Natural Gas for Coal: Climatic Effects of Utility Sector Emissions, Climatic Change, July 2002, Volume 54, Issue 1-2, pp 107-139, DOI: 10.1023/A:1015737505552. [abstract, full text]

Suyanto, S., G. Applegate, R. P. Permana, N. Khususiyah, and I. Kurniawan. 2004. The role of fire in changing land use and livelihoods in Riau-Sumatra. Ecology and Society 9(1): 15.. [abstract and full text]

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 58:

  1. This conclusion of the article seems very fuzzy.  Biofuels may not be any improvement over fossil fuels — US corn ethanol in particular appears to barely stretch oil reserves at all, never mind land use considerations.  But how are biofuels "twice as bad" ?

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  2. By coincidence, the following article was posted on the Carbon Brief blog yesterday

    Carbon briefing: changing views on biofuels reflected in forthcoming climate report by Robin Webster.

    The lead paragraphs of Webster's post: 

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s new report, due to be launched next week, is likely to give a new and updated perspective on biofuels - reflecting a flood of research on their impact on natural systems in past years.

    The UN-created body launched its last major report back in 2007. At that time, the idea of using plant based crops as a replacement for fossil fuels was largely viewed as an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

    But soon after, studies began emerging in the scientific literature that challenged this idea. They suggested biofuels could damage the environment, drive up food prices, or even increase greenhouse gas emissions.

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  3. "Examples of such energy production methods are wind power and solar power. These two are clearly good options."
    Quite a statement.
    Firstly for clarity to survive climate change humanity needs to stop using all fossil fuels asap so contrasting wind an dsolar to coal is thus just an abstract issue now. And to get 350ppm we have to remove approximately 100ppm worth of CO2 from the atmosphere, we have to re-remove what the sinks will release as CO2 concentrations fall.
    So we have no carbon budget at all, all we have is a carbon gamble and all renewable cost carbon to set up of which is carbon that will need removing again from the atmosphere.
    Secondly solar PV has serious issues with associated toxic waste (that is very toxic and a severe issue in the made in China ones) to in thre process to make them , in themselves and in the processes needed to recycle the,, including rare earth metals, heat up to 2000C and cleaning agents like trinitrofloride that do get released all eventually which are 17000 x potent GHG's. And what will happen to the soil beneath fields of solar panels (lose soil carbon due to no acute growth carbon load?) and in lsarge arrays they mimic water causing insects and birds to gather by them, and disturbing them during migration etc, and lowering chances of success, basically they disturb ecosystems functioning when we need them to be fully repaired from our destruction.
    And wind has large carbon inputs, and does disturb birds and bats populations (a real issue in North America) If misplaced, and sound causes biodiversity issues in oceans and they warm and dry the land and cause excess evaporation over oceans, all of which mean they definitely have quite significant environmental impacts, and I'm not anti wind just realize that their utilization is actually very limited and we have actually no carbon to gamble with to be safe anyway.
    Therefore to say wind and solar are without environmental issues is fool hardy and misleading and will mean that once again mankind will produce in excess in our craze for more power and cause more harm than good, remember again I say we need to not being using any fossil fuels asap , 5-10years to no fossil use?
    Then there is all the carbon upfront that adaptation measures needed will cost.
    So we have no carbon to spend on them and they have real and very significant impacts on an environment we need to repair, nowhere near as much as fossil fuels for sure.
    That s not saying no wind or solar it is saying be truthful about them and accept they very limited and we have no carbon to spend on them anyway really, just a very risky gamble (we left it too late for luxuries, (sacrifice for the greater good is the new game and fortunately that brings people together and feels good apparently if we take it on) and therefore most appropriate thing to do is to power down as much as possible immediately and get away with as few additional carbon, other GHG and toxic waste issues as possible, in this case less is more, but accepting power down is difficult so I'm sure on the whole we'll just turn a blind eye again to known environmental impacts and the reality of the carbon situation and overexploit renewables again in what would best be called mal adaptation.
    So to be clear I feel we need to be off fossil fuels asap, however we also need to judicious with power use and get this down as much as possible so we get away with as few new technologies as possible and as just less carbon emissions to install them and less environmental impacts to an environment on the point of biodiversity crises in any case, when it comes to energy using less is the greatest more.


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  4. A good article in what it covers. It's what it avoids is the issue. The sustainable energy source that is not mentioned is nuclear. We need to stop the use of coal ASAP and move to reduce our CO2 level to below 350 ppm. With this I agree completely.

    Advanced nuclear can do that in a short period of time at least in the third world. Yet much of the environmental movement thinks that nuclear has cooties and must be opposed.

    The feeling attached to nuclear are understandably strong given the history of the bomb but the mass cancers after Chernobyl have not happened. People have moved back in to the exclusion area and are having good lives. Nuclear cooties appear not to be as leathal as claimed.

    The denial of nuclear science from the anti nukes is similar to the denial of climate science of the climate deniers.

    The use of mass produced nuclear bateries as the heat source for existing coal fired power stations makes them a rapid coal replacer.

    Since the fuel is already processed in the form of depleated uranium and bomb grade plutonium further energy use in production is minimal. Since the technology is ready for regulatory approval it's the cooties factor that is the main impediment.

    It's a shame the civilisation can be ended because of cooties!

    I agree with the author that many renewables while good as an energy source don't easily translate to the scale need to replace coal inside of the 10 years needed where as nuclear batteries could get quite close to that.

    The near extinction of the orangutan and environmental damage just is not worth the the bio-deisel produced.

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  5. Paul W:

    Out of curiosity, what is the source for your assertion that "People have moved back in to the exclusion area and are having good lives."

    A Kyiv Post article from 2012 reports:

    In the so-called Exclusion (18.5 mile radius) Zone around the Shelter, most of the so-called samosely (self-settlers, i.e. returned evacuees) are dying out. In 2007, there remained 314 scattered throughout 11 villages, with an average age of 63. In 1986 there were an estimated 1,200. Ten villages were bulldozed in the zone and others are in a state of decay. The 1986 disaster has destroyed settlements and patterns of life that date back to medieval times. Of those moved from the Exclusion Zone, only 3% were employed in 2003 (though some had retired by then).

    Do you have more recent information describing an influx of people?

    The article suggests that the Chernobyl situation is in fact nowhere near as rosy as you portray. Do you have any sources describing a dramatic turnaround?

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  6. Paul,

    Where I live in Florida no-one in the government cares what environmentalists think.  Nuclear was given enormous subsidies and has failed because it is not economic.  Nuclear is too expensive to build in the USA.

    With the problems in Japan (which the Nuclear industry is not paying to fix, it comes from taxpayers) I would be very hesitant to put reactors in the third world.  They would be sure to have severe problems.  I don't think that will become an issue because nuclear is uneconomic.

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  7. Sweet, can you defend your statement about non economic?

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  8. Jim Hansen loves nuclear power anyway.  that's enough for me.

    There's a thread over at Arctic Sea Ice Forums discussing it right now.

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  9. Terranova, I would have thought a working definition of economic would be "able to attract investors wanting to build one who have a reasonable confidence in making money from their investment". Is there any private investor-built nukes without government guarantees anywhere? For naysayers, well say Morningstar or Peter Bradford, or how about Cooper 2013?

    That said, I would very much welcome government investment in new breeds of reactor, particularly Thorium or IFR and completely accept that development of such advanced technologies wont happen without government support.

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  10. Further to that Terranova, would you invest in plant where your investment was liable for costs associated with malfunction in operation or in waste disposal? Should nuclear be allowed to pass such risk costs to goverment when other forms of power generation do not?

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  11. Numerobis #1: Like I tried to explain in the article (and obviously failed), we though we had reduced emissions but didn't - this is "once", and in a worst case scenario biofuels (and natural gas) have much higher emissions than fossil fuels - this is "twice".

    Ranyl #3: So where I was not being truthful about solar and wind energy? I only suggested in passing that they are good from climate point of view (which they are) and didn't claim we only need to use those in the future. Neither did I claim that these two don't have any environmental problems.

    Paul W #4: This article was not meant to be overview of the whole energy production but just an effort to highlight couple of problems in our current mitigation efforts. I actually had nuclear power included in the article originally, but I decided to take it out because usually any mention of nuclear power leads to nuke/anti-nuke debate. Proof of this we have here: no comments on bioenergy or natural gas after your message, only comments on nuclear power. I wanted to highlight the situation with bioenergy and natural gas.

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  12. Ari, I agree with your concerns about natural gas and bioenergy. Neither are solutions yet are portrayed as such. I agree with you that energy spent on natural gas and bioenergy just consume a resouse and take time we dont have.

    We do need to solve the energy produciton situation and dont have time to waste on non solutions that further harm the environment.

    Haing said that to nuke/antinuke debate dose seem rather unavoidable at this point in history. I would completly love it if other solutions were at hand. It's been an interst now of mine for 30 years and the big rewnewables genaration don't seem to get near nukes for Gwatts instaled cost which is a bottom line.

    Still your point is valid natural gas and biofuels are a way of keeping on putting CO2 in the air when we really do need to end that and move on to other energy sources.

    Your point that food supply is now decrasing and we need that to not be caused by a false energy alternative like biofuels.

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  13. Ranyl #3: So where I was not being truthful about solar and wind energy? I only suggested in passing that they are good from climate point of view (which they are) and didn't claim we only need to use those in the future. Neither did I claim that these two don't have any environmental problems.

    Well I didn't say you wren't beign truthful in aspect just not taking full consideration.

    PV is not good environmentally, they are toxic waste that can't be got rid of, use massive amount s of energy to make, produce lots of toxic waste in manufacturing and recycling due to treatments, release other very active GHG (NF3, HFC's used a cleanign agents) have significant impacts in large arrays (and to provide large amounts power really that have to be huge arrays) and so on and so on, so how are they good for the environment actually?

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  14. Terranova,

    I agree with Scaddenp above. I would add that in the two places in the US that I have lived, Florida and California, two nuclear plants have recently shut down because of failed upgrade attempts and no new plants are planned.  If it is not economic to repair an existing plant (with the generators, transmission lines and environmental studies already in place) how could you build a new one?  There is extreme subsidation of nuclear (one Florida company was allowed to charge their customers $1.5 billion for planning on a new plant that never broke ground).  Another Florida plant has severe problems from a recent upgrade.  Can you provide evidence that nuclear is economic without government subsidy?  In what country?

    I do not want to comment again on nuclear because everyone has already made up their minds and it clogs up the threads.

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  15. Ranyl,

    Can you provide citations for your claims about the problems of manufacturing solar.  Please cite peer reviewed material if possible.

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  16. I am just truly caring for the environment and humanity and not just backing something cos someone said it was green, when isn't, is a highly manufactured, high enbodied energy, high toxicity energy production system, not as bad a coal but still not exactly environmentally good and metalurgic grade silicon needed does need to heated to 2000C.
    Recycling isn’t that easy it seems and is full of chemical and energy intensive processes, just like making the original panels was, so many things not accounted for.
    Doesn’t really bust any myths but does resort to comparison to nuclear and coal albeit without actual comparison and doesn’t say solar panels aren’t an environmental hazard just says that the risks are minimized in the production process although waste disposal and issues aren’t really addressed that well.
    Company sponsored paper so will be biased to a degree.

    There are few for a starter.

    And as for recycling and closed loop manufacture, well how many times can you recycle anything and then it si still toxic and clsoedmanufacture well if the NF3 leaks is anything go by that isn't really practical either.

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  17. Ranyl, perfection would be good but things that are better than coal is still an improvement. While the energy cost might be high, it is returned many times over in the lifetime of a panel, recycling releases far less waste and the GHE from the emissions is far below that from equivalent energy return on coal. Better solutions are welcome but frankly all forms of energy extraction have environmental impacts.

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  18. Ranyl,

    I read the first 6 references you cited.  None of them supported your claim in 13 that:

    "PV is not good environmentally, they are toxic waste that can't be got rid of, use massive amount s of energy to make, produce lots of toxic waste in manufacturing and recycling due to treatments, release other very active GHG (NF3, HFC's used a cleanign agent"

    Reference 1 said:

    "Th[is] report also lays out recommendations to immediately address these problems to build a safe, sustainable, and just solar energy industry" (my emphasis throughout)


    "The solar PV industry must address these issues immediately, or risk repeating the mistakes made by the microelectronics industry.4 The electronics industry’s lack of environmental planning and oversight resulted in widespread toxic chemical pollution"

    While I agree that large manufacturers need to be watched, it is hardly the solar industries issue that other manufacturers have been environmentally damaging.

    Reference 2 says:

    "How can the production process ensure that panels are manufactured without leaking waste and how will they be disposed of after a lifetime of use? These concerns, though fairly manageable in and of themselves,"


    "even with the side effects discussed here, solar energy remains far cleaner, for the atmosphere and for human health, than burning coal"

    and "As The New York Times noted, “the solar industry in Europe is not taking any chances with its reputation as a clean business.

    They do not suggest an alternative energy supply from solar.  Are we to be concerned about "managable" issues?  Should we stop solar becasue they are "not taking any chances with its reputation"?

    They also state "The US and other developed countries have shown that polysilicon manufacturing can be an entirely safe process that recycles silicon tetrachloride".  That doesn't sound so bad.

    Reference three states

    "For the average U.S. insolation and electricity-grid conditions, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from manufacturing and using NF₃ in current PV a-Si and tandem a-Si/nc-Si facilities add 2 and 7 g CO₂(eq)/kWh, which can be displaced within the first 1-4 months of the PV system life"

    Reference 5 is a law reveiw from 1982, hardly current, and has no complaints.

    If this is the best you can do the soalr industry is ready to go all out.  All large electronic firms in China should be carefully watched.  Your claims that solar (and wind) cannot be environmentally produced do not stand up to a review of your own citations.

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  19. Uhfortunately we have become energy hogs - and have expectations that our expectations will be filled into the foreseeable future ... "screw the planet - I wants mine!Neither solar or any other energy source can ever support our expectations - and until we learn to lower them drastically - we'll just rack up the damage. Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar Photovoltaicswhich is a incredibly detailed analysis of the real costs of the Spanish construction of what is arguably the world's largest PV solar plant.At least wind and solar don't leave a legacy of long-lived nucleotides...
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  20. Link seems to have vanished - here it is at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar Photovoltaics
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  21. We have to stay below 450 ppm CO2 (even that may be too high), a level we'll reach by 2033 with the BAU approach, and then get down to 350 ppm ASAP.  US EIA predicts global electricty production by 2025 as 4.1 million MW installed capacity from fossil fuels. That is equivalent to  6300 London Arrays, currently the largest offshore wind farm.  Until there are appropriate advances in battery storage systems, wind power will never achieve base load capabilities.  The US EIA also estimates that electricty production and direct heating produce just 31% of all CO2 emmisions; the only other sector that has the potential for replacing fossil fuels is transportation (another 20%) but that requires an entirely new infrastructure for electric vehicles and/or hydrogen fuel.  

    That still leaves about 50% of CO2 emmisions that are not readily dealt with (manufacturing, construction, land use/direct emissions etc)  We'd have to squester atmospheric CO2in massive amounts,  which, unless there's a breakthrough in technology, will require copious amounts of electricty - from non-fossil sources of course (see House et. al. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008, Direct Air Capture of CO2 with Chemicals, American Physical Society, 2011, and Rau et. Al Institute of Marine Sciences, U. Of California, 2013).

    Our only hope is nuclear, but not the uranium based systems that Rickover decided on in the 1970's but throium based systems that are walk away safe; produce far less radioactive byproducts of far lower toxicity; are far more prolieration resistant, and potentially far cheaper to build that the current PWR systems.  Maybe fusion will finally get the breakthrough needed to produce power, but as a civilzation we cannot rely on hoped for solutions.  Getting our political systems to really deal with climate change is in itself a problem we seem unable to overcome, let alone techical issues of implementing timely solutions.  I for one have come to realise that adaptation, really feasible for a modest prcentage of the global population, is now inevitable.  Mitigation becomes less and less likely as the years go by.

    The book '2084:  An Oral History of the Great Warming' by James Powell may well be prescient.

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  22. Regarding solar farms and molten salt farms, you would think governments would put mirrors in space to keep these powers plants working 24/7

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  23. "If this is the best you can do the solar industry is ready to go all out. All large electronic firms in China should be carefully watched. Your claims that solar (and wind) cannot be environmentally produced do not stand up to a review of your own citations."
    Firstly yes PV is better than coal, but we need to stop using coal asap as I said, no brainer just like the article say, but not sure why you use that as proof of PV being good for the environment, PV are just another power generation technology with major environmental impacts, like a machine gun we kill loads of people (coal) compared to a hand gun, a hand gun (PV) still kills.
    Therefore nothing you have said is saying making PV's is of environmental benefit, we have hope they make clean factories, we have to hope, but how do they treat the waste and what do they do with it? How do they make in benign exactly?
    Lots of waste left behind here from a clean factory.
    Another statement on some of the issues and again we hope factories will clean up...and how many factories are in China and growing

    “Non-hydro renewable sources have a positive coefficient, indicating that renewables tend to simply be added to the energy mix without displacing fossil fuels.”

    “The failure of non-fossil energy sources to displace fossil ones is probably in part attributable to the established energy system where there is a lock-in to using fossil fuels as the base energy source because of their long-standing prevalence and existing infrastructure and to the political and economic power of the fossil-fuel industry.”

    Richard York1 Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?
    Nature Climate Change Volume: 2, Pages: 441–443, 2012

    They haven't even displaced any coal yet either, so all just additional harm.

    PV is a dirty, high enery environmentally destrcutive technology, better than coal but still in no way an environmental benefit at all to no one or anything.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Hot-linked URL.

  24. Michael Whittemore, once you get to the point of launching things into orbit it actually makes more sense to put solar PV panels in space to collect sunlight 100% of the time and beam the power down to rectifying antennas on the surface.

    That said, I think what I call 'solar overkill' may be the most likely / cost effective scenario. There are technologies in place which can gather solar PV energy from transparent windows, roofing shingles, building siding, sidewalks, driveways, and even clothing. If the cost of solar PV continues to plummet, we may see it being incorporated into anything and everything... resulting in most buildings generating more electricity than they use and thus always sufficient 'extra' power to transfer to sites which are currently dark.

    Ranyl, you may want to take a look at Hawaii. It has greatly decreased fossil fuel usage by adopting renewable power. Your belief that this is impossible is thus simply wrong.

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  25. "Ranyl, you may want to take a look at Hawaii. It has greatly decreased fossil fuel usage by adopting renewable power. Your belief that this is impossible is thus simply wrong."

    Who said this was a beleif, and I'm not Richard York, he is and he worked out, he didn't just beleive it.


    And Hawaii has extensive Geothermal which York isn't discussing, he is discussing PV, wind etc...and of relevance to this article and future food as climate change puts the strain on, "In May we signed a power purchase agreement with Hu Honua Bioenergy for up to 21.5 MW of firm renewable energy fueled by locally grown and produced biomass on the Big Island. Pending Public Utilities Commission approval, plans call for bringing the power plant online by the end of 2013", that is lot of MW to grow., are people actually starving in our world why we grow plants to serve of power addiction, is that really happening??? and advocated by environmentalists?
    And I see all good now because toxic PV is cheap and easy to do I see, no ownder I passed a several acrePV array in yesterday on prime farmland, wonder that does to soil carbon, the ecosystem in the soil and dispalced food crop?

    How much land would be needed to supply a major city and industry from PV and what storage would be needed, or are talking a global power sharing grid?

    Any environmental impacts of common storage devices? Batteries Lithium mining, trasnport, toxic prodcution, toxic waste, etc,etc, what biodiverstiy crisis?

    And the grid any additionals needed to that to cope with PV?

    Is the answer to actual admit that there si no clean power production, that we already need to remove ~100ppm from the atmosphere to get ot 350ppm (the 50% of emissions stored in the sinks will be released as the atmospheric CO2 conc falls accordign thse guys;

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide removal: long-term consequences and commitment, Long Cao and Ken Caldeira, Environ. Res. Lett. 5 (2010)
    And these guys estimate if we stopped all CO2 tomorrow only drops very slowy at best 0.2ppm/y-1, so take the earth 250years to get 350ppm without the re-release from the sinks.

    How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming? J A Lowe1, C Huntingford2, S C B Raper3, C D Jones4, S K Liddicoat4 and L K Gohar1, Environ. Res. Lett. 4 (2009)
    When CO2 was 350ppm last the wordl was 3-5C hotter and 20-25m sea level rise different and the cliamtic zones and oceanic zones where quite different, and severe weather in terms of rain amounts and wind dissipation must have been quite something with all that extra heat and energy about.

    We are admidst a rapid mass extinction, very rapid loss of biodiversity and all due to human practices of consumption, overexploitation, fertilization, land use change and introducign am array of toxic substances.

    And here we are discussing using an technology with a very high energy input to produce, multiple toxic waste issues at all stages including recycling, that is totally dependent on fossil fuels to make at presetnt and user of land now in more and more places.

    And now it si becoming cheap and open to mass manufacture and can be put into anything so now totally open to mass ocerexploitation so its all ok.

    Therefore coal is awful and if we continue with that then the upshot civilization chaos and that is never pretty.

    Solar PV is another enrgy source, that isn't as bad, but pretty awful and if waste leaks or factory blown up very bad as substances used in manufacture so toxic and GHG effects so high, imagine if all the NF3 escaped.

    Therefore the question here is to either power down or use PV and continue the harm and probaly increase it as the full extent of putting waste into the environment emerges due to bioaccumulation and concentrations of these substances, and how carbon does it cost when you disrupt an ecosystem?

    Choice Power down or toxic waste?

    And lastly to get to 350ppm means we need to be carbonnegative and every ounce of carbon has to be recovered so where si all this carbon to make all these PV's coming from.

    And as many LCA (lots very biased) give ~6-8years for PV, that measn for 1 year production you have make 6 to 8 years worth, which of course takes at present all number of PV's of fossil fuels to make an PV factory from PV alone, spo that is a lot, 36 to 64 years of equivalent emissions to set up, and that isn't including NF3 or Hydroflourides or the effects of the toxic wsaste on the environmental carbon fluxes.

    Power down is safe, costs no GHG, produces no waste and is actually easy to do.

    And yes I am writing on a CPU which is toxic waste, and yes we do need to do somethign about that to.

    We are between a very hard rock and a very hard place, 35ppm is a miracle away, needs stoppign all fossil fuel use asap and not using other powwr generation that has large environmental imapcts especailly in big scale overexploitation. And we haven't even started on where the silicon coms from, the rare earths, the aluminium, the solder, the lead, the glass, the transportation, making the factories, all the chemical used, and so and so on...

    Therefore the choice is powerdown nice and safe in all respects or not and keep on harming just not quite severely as coal?

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  26. Ranyl,

    I quoted from your sources to show that solar did not have the problems you claimed.  You respond with more unsupported wild claims    You have provided exactly zero quotes to support your wild claims.  Your assertions about solar are false.  Your claim that Hawaii uses extensive geothermal must be supported by a cite.  I have seen extensive data supporting the claim that Hawaii has reduced its fossil fuel use with solar.  What do you thnk happens to fossiil fuel use when wind generates more energy?  Do  consumers use more power?  Be serious, of course fossil fuel use goes down.  You appear to claim that all energy use must be curtailed.  That will never happen.  You must provide an alternate scenerio for people to live.

    You are ranting and sloganeering.  Provide more citations that support your wild claims and less assertions from ignorance.

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  27. Ranyl - PV, like any piece of electronics, does have manufacturing waste which must be managed, appropriately recycled, etc. As in the electronics industry, proper monitoring and regulation is necessary. As to coal - damage to watersheds and water supplies, the CO2 and greenhouse effects thereof that are at the center of the climate change discussion, and the particulate and even radioactive release of radon and other elements (with emissions being a continuous output, not just a one time manufacturing cost).

    _All_ energy sources, coal, solar, nuclear, etc, have side effects - it's a matter of deciding which effects are more problematic. I would strongly argue in the comparison of solar and coal that the advantages of no carbon emissions _hugely_ gives the balance to solar, and I consider your solar objections more quibbling than anything else.

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  28. CBDunkerson my understanding is that it would take a large amount of panels to be put in space to generate enough energy but with mirrors they could focus on different power plants around the world and not just solar but the land based mirror ones too that generate steam. 

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  29. Michael Whittemore - I believe that most space-based solar power proposals include using laser or microwave wireless power transmission to Earth; extension cords are sadly not practical with todays technology :) Power density would be considerably higher, given the lack of atmosphere, clouds, or night. 

    I suspect that using satellites as mirror concentrators would be less cost effective than just larger collection areas on the surface. 

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  30. Michael Whittemore, either mirrors or PV panels could be directed to multiple ground based sites... though it would be much easier with PV panels because only the microwave emitter would need to be re-aligned rather than all of the mirrors. Also note that mirrors would effectively be creating a giant 'heat ray' from space focused on a small point on the ground, which could be a problem for birds and aircraft. Meanwhile, PV could be transmitted down harmlessly as microwaves over a wider area. Finally, the atmosphere (and clouds) block sunlight much more effectively than they do microwaves... so solar PV panels in space would actually produce more electricity than the same panels on the surface. The mirror approach could gain similar benefits by putting the steam turbines in orbit too, but getting that amount of mass (not to mention the water) into space would be prohibitively expensive.

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  31. CBDunkerson - Actually, space based dynamic generation (mirrors, boilers, and generators) has something of a mass advantage over PV, as the mirrors could be exceedingly light mylar or similar materials. It's been less frequently proposed mostly due to the need for maintaining moving parts - you can't just jump in a utility van and apply the wrench. Space based PV might benefit in mass from concentrator mirrors too, depending on whether any need for increased radiator mass would outweigh the reduction in panels. 

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  32. Ari commented in his piece that natural gas replacing coal increases warming in the short ter because of the reduction in aerosols from coal. This observation applies equally to renewables that replace coal, as well. Particulates are a huge health risk, indoors and out, killing millions every year. They will surely be, or should be, reduced regardless of any short-term effect they have on the climate. And coal is not the only villain: the OECD reckons that there are 40,000 deaths per year in France from diesel fumes alone. It's not quite fair to link the climate effects of particulate emissions reductions with natural gas usage. 

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  33. Ranyl provided a link to a site from a Hawaiian power company that has an interesting and somewhat depressing table. About 88% of the electricity on the islands is generated by fossil fuels, mostly diesel, which is a very expensive way to generate electricity. Yet, only 0.1% of the electricity is solar-generated. You would think that with reports that say that PV electricity is becoming as cheap as  coal or gas fired electricity in the continental US and Germany, solar electricity in sunny Hawaii, where it displaces expensive diesel electricity, would be a no-brainer. Hawaiian residential electricity prices are $0.37 kW/hr, right up there with the more expensive European prices and three times what they are in the rest of the USA. Why hasn't there been a massive rush to install PV in Hawaii?

    These issues are usually more complex than they appear from a quick Googling, so if anybody has any insights into this, I would like to hear them. 

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  34. Andy,

    The link Ranyl provided shows electricity generated by the utility.  Much solar power is generated by individuals with solar panels on their roofs.  This shows up as reduced demand to the utility, not as power generated.  According to this Scientific American article, about 2.6% of electricity in Hawaii is generated by solar systems.  The utilities have stopped all current instalations of new solar claiming the grid cannot handle the load.  They do not allow neighborhoods to return power to the grid during the day, only to shift electricity to nearby houses.  The utilities do not want to be put out of business by cheaper power from individuals. There will undoubtedly be arguments about how the grid can be adjusted to accept electricity from individuals.  There will likely be arguments for a long time.  If solar becomes cheap enough, it will eventually win out.

    Hawaii also has issues caused by the very small size of its electricity grids.  Each island is a separate grid.  This causes balancing issues in the event of a very large cloud coming over a single island.

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  35. Thanks,Michael. That was very helpful.

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  36. "All_ energy sources, coal, solar, nuclear, etc, have side effects - it's a matter of deciding which effects are more problematic. I would strongly argue in the comparison of solar and coal that the advantages of no carbon emissions _hugely_ gives the balance to solar, and I consider your solar objections more quibbling than anything else."
    Hmm I never said use coal yet all I get is coal comparisons, and I have said coal isn't not good at all and I would wish we could stop using it all together tomorrow.
    And how are electronics and PV recycled, what processes are involved, energy intensive and using multiple chemical processes and etching processes, and where do all the acids come from?
    As for quibbling well no these are real concerns and there are choices to be made, power down as much as possible (quick, effective, easy), wind, hydro, marine or solar. At present solar needs gas to make or another heat source, make that electric and energy use goes up I suspect.
    So take coal out of the equation and where does solar PV stack up and very worrying how little weight is put on toxic waste in LCA and the like and most by far published in renewable energy favorable journals by renewable energy research groups, and the Energy return vary from 0.8yr to 12year depending on energy mix and how you mix the figures up mainly, and so little accounting for carbon fluxes due to ecosystem disturbances from mining, toxic waste bits etc....Almost Like it doesn't matter and ignores how ecosystem disruptions tend to lead to carbon releases like shading soil?? (down respiration rates as cooler, but little plant growth so can only respire soil carbon so releases?? all very tricky to know and needs investigating further)
    "You are ranting and sloganeering. Provide more citations that support your wild claims and less assertions from ignorance."
    Yet I do reference everything I written and in the reference to Hawaii power it states Hawaii Island uses 22% Geothermal which seems a reasonable amount.
    I also gave the Nature Climate Change reference about the non displacement of fossil fuels by renewables, I didn't make it up, and due to backup reserve increases when things aren't generating, balancing issues (York hypothesized) and yes when people think they are getting good green electricity they tend to sue more of it cos it good isn't it, so does tend to discourage power down as all feel good no problems electricity. Indeed it is even widely stated it improves the environment. And that is of course false how can a process requiring a multitude of manufacturing processes, lots of toxic substances to make (and they have to be manufactured and sourced also), and lots of heat (supplied by gas mainly at present) improve the environment?
    Well only if compared to coal, but again to reiterate I think we shouldn't use coal at all.
    "You appear to claim that all energy use must be curtailed. That will never happen. You must provide an alternate scenario for people to live."
    Well I never said that, I said to get anywhere near the targets needed to prevent serious global warming a significant power down would be the cheapest, quickest, easiest and totally non environmentally harming way to do it. However that isn't to zero power, but trying to replace all power with renewable is going to costs lots of carbon and create lots of waste in the case of PV.
    Is our power addiction worth this risk, I'd rather power down more than use PV and create a waste mountain or energy legacy (to recycle them needs lots of energy) to deal with and it could be a huge waste mountain.
    And I wonder how many times they'll be able to be recycled, they only get 95% of the stuff out at present, mainly the glass (by crushing or milling and then heat), silicon by heat of chemical agents)m the toxic waste bits, hard to say what happens to them, but about 5% of something goes to landfill (
    EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) I wonder what will happen to that? And the other plastics in the PV's and what do they use to clean them in manufacture and what are the various retardants etc made from I wonder?
    Therefore lets not compare to coal, as we all agree coal is so bad we shouldn't use it at all.
    Then PV is a energy provision technology that requires very high temperatures, rare earth elements, plastics, treated films and membranes, storage technologies, lots of area, mining, lots of strong chemicals to etch and scribe, and then wiring, Inverters and several other aspects all associated with waste, no wonder the UK classified under the electronic waste this year, as PV are now WEEE, and people say there is no waste associated them.
    So here are in a real and current environmentally emergency in terms of global warming and biodiversity losses, both of which are direct threats to human existence in themselves and rather than power down and put as little additional GHG into atmosphere and toxic waste into the environment as I would suggest is best approach, I am told to risk lots of additional GHG and create additional toxic waste issues.

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  37. Andy, also look at a different Hawaiian utility.

    It plans to generate 50 to 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.  Also, from they've reduced fossil fuel generation by 6.5% from 2008 to 2012.  In addition, the end of 2012 they brought on line a solar array that will supply 3% of the island's power, and in 2013 began construction of an array twice as big, with a third array planned.

    Where they are is less important than how fast they are moving, and with Kauai that's pretty fast.

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  38. Ranyl, I would be extremely interested then in your opinions on McKay's "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air". I struggle to figure out how US citizens can use 250kWh/d/p, so I do agree that conservation will make an important role, but looking at his numbers, it is also clear that making meaningful reductions by conservation is going to be tough. I ran the analysis for NZ and figured you could realistically get 25kWh/d/p, with 10 of that from electric vehicles.

    If you are going to replace the energy generated from coal, (the main problem), then you really need solar (either PV or CSP, and realistically both) or nuclear. If you think you can do it another way, then please show us your arithmetic.

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  39. Ranyl,

    What type of power do you support?  I see you do not like solar or coal, can you suggest alternatives?


    The utilities make much of their profits on the peak load period from about 12:00-6:00PM every day.  Solar cuts directly into this peak and causes a disproportionate dip in utility profits.  In Hawaii this might be 5% of peak power, since solar produces no energy at night.  It is difficult for those (like me) who are not professionals to understand all the ins and outs.  The bottom line is that utilities do not like wind and solar competing with them during peak profit hours.  They did not say much about it until the past year or so because solar and wind were not economic.  Now that home solar and xommercial wind are economic the arguments are starting.  In progressive areas (like Germany) solar is adopted more quickly.  In backwards areas (like Florida, where I live) solar still struggles.

    The grid in Hawaii might be able to support more solar, but the utility profits cannot.  We will have to wait for several analysis to be done.  

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  40. Actually, MacKay has an interesting 2-pager (and thought-provoking map) on energy options for the US here. Note that the solar options considered are CSP and biomass, not PV. (At time of writing, MacKay thought PV somewhat too expensive to consider). It does give you a feeling for the size of the problem. It would be interesting for someone familiar with the US energy use to comment on options for energy saving. There are anomolies that I cant explain. US electricity consumption alone is around 100 kWh/d/p - more than NZ total energy consumption of 88kWh/d/p. Oil/gas consumption is around 150kWh/d/p - more than 3x NZ usage. Hmm. How much is domestic energy use, how much is industrial use? I can see US consumer being more electricity demanding than a NZer, and that home heating/cooling needs are higher, but surely not by that much. US industrial use would by much higher and if this is where most energy goes, then it's likely to be harder to make energy conservation measures. Because it affects the bottom-line, industries tend to be far more focussed on energy efficiency than a domestic consumers. Anyone done a MacKay type analysis on where the US spends its energy?

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  41. According to Wiki about one-third of US electricity consumption is residential.

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  42. Michael @ 39: I would say that it's not just a question of utility profits, but how the grid is paid for and by whom. I would suspect that the solution for this would have to be some kind of fixed grid connection charge independent of the usage, plus some time-variable charges for the electricity. It is probably not that hard to figure out how to do this, but the politics for the regulators are probably very difficult.

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  43. Andy: Ari commented in his piece that natural gas replacing coal increases warming in the short ter because of the reduction in aerosols from coal. This observation applies equally to renewables that replace coal, as well.

    Of course, except that biomass burning also releases aerosols, but this doesn't take away the fact that this feature is also present when switching from coal to natural gas. The situation of natural gas is somewhat different than the situation with solar or wind energy, because solar and wind energy at least really reduce GHG emissions, so even with aerosol effect, there is a possibility to reduce the warming effect overall. In natural gas case it just amplifies already bad situation.

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  44. Andy,

    Certainly how the grid is paid for is the argument that the utilities make.  Different people will interpret the arguments differently.  Hawaii is a trial run for the USA as solar is currently the cheapest form of electricity there.  It will be interesting to learn what type of upgrades are required for neighborhoods to send electricity over existing wires back to the utility.  The utility currently claims it cannot be done. The technicalities are complex for people who do not work in the industry.

    In my local paper today a report states that the Florida state legislators are in the back pocket of the utilities.  That surprises no one in the USA.  Perhaps if Australia shows that electricity is much cheaper when people make their own, the US will be dragged along.

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  45. scaddenp wrote: "At time of writing, MacKay thought PV somewhat too expensive to consider"

    I've never been able to take MacKay seriously because of his stance on solar PV. Even when it first came out his 'without the hot air' analysis of solar PV was clearly off, and now that a few years have passed it is just a bad joke (e.g. '20% efficient solar panels will never be affordable').

    As to energy saving possibilities in the U.S.... virtually everything the rest of the world has done the past twenty years. The GOP is still fighting tooth and nail against energy efficient light bulbs. Better insulation. Energy efficient (i.e. higher up front cost) appliances. Efficient power transmission. Et cetera. We are way behind the curve on even the concept of trying to save energy. The good news is that means there is plenty of room for future decreases in energy use. The bad news is that a good portion of the country actively believes not using as much electricity as possible is all part of an evil commie plot.

    On the other hand, some local GOP groups have been getting behind solar energy... to the utter horror of GOP politicians. It seems they actually believe all that 'self sufficient' stuff they spout when voting to kill social safety net programs and figure nothing is more self sufficient than generating your own electricity. Distributed solar PV and on-site battery storage is starting to catch on in Hawaii and the SW United States despite the costs, in part because there are tons of 'preppers' out there who don't trust the guvmint to keep providing electricity. It's kinda scary when the lunatic fringe are helping to drive the country towards sanity. There is some indication that battery costs are set to fall significantly (c.f. Tesla's battery megafactory)... in which case solar PV and battery storage could result in a lot of people going off the grid entirely.

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  46. Found a nice graph of German electricity generation over time. This shows that since 2000 renewable power generation has grown from %5 of the total to ~25%. Coal use dipped slightly and then rose again, but hasn't really changed very much in total. Instead, the increase in renewable generation has come at the expense of nuclear. This is likely due to both the high cost of nuclear and the government's decision to phase it out after Fukushima. They could be much further along towards emissions targets if they had kept nuclear and phased out coal, but these results clearly show that shifting to significant renewable generation is entirely possible even over short time-frames.German electricity generation by type

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  47. MacKay seldom discusses cost - the other reason why he favoured CSP over PV is superior efficiency. His analysis remains very useful.

    With 1/3 of electricity going to residential, then even you doubled the energy efficiency of all appliances, you only reduce energy consumption from 250kWh/d/p to 234. Useful, but not the answer to AGW  (and fairly unachievably either). Because lighting isnt a big user, you can only gain about 1kWh/d/p by going to energy efficient bulbs. You need the MacKay-type analysis to know where significant saving can be made.

    For NZ, it turned out that electricification of transport was probably the most significant place to make a change. NZer only use 7kWh/d/p for heating and cooling, while UK used 37 and I suspect US would use much more. This is probably an important area but reverse-engineering housing is expensive and probably a 100 year project. Without a breakdown of where energy is consumed, its hard to be sure.

    It would also be very interesting to get a breakdown on where petroleum/gas is used. From a personal savings point of view, long distance air travel is a major energy use.

    In short, while conserving energy is by far the cheapest option for AGW reduction, the large industrial useage (apparently) would suggest changing the source of energy is going to be more important for the US. Focussing on consumer energy use is putting effort in the wrong place.

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  48. "Ranyl,
    What type of power do you support? I see you do not like solar or coal, can you suggest alternatives?"
    "If you are going to replace the energy generated from coal, (the main problem), then you really need solar (either PV or CSP, and realistically both) or nuclear. If you think you can do it another way, then please show us your arithmetic."
    My question is more how much energy can we actually produce sustainably?
    Wind is renewable resource for sure but wind turbines aren't are they, just the like the sun is renewable but solar panels aren't, nor are they sustainable in any sense of the word.
    Then how much more carbon emissions can we gamble to continue to provide power and transform energy provision by putting in new power production facilities, and that is all additional carbon we are gambling so all this payback is nonsense accounting to make things look good. Basically all power provision is a carbon gamble, and the size of that gamble is dependent on how risk you want to take, and even if we decided to gamble none at all the risks are still very high.
    350ppm is a long long long way away, we are 400ppm and 350ppm if the Early Pliocene epoch temperature estimates are right, given 60% warming in a 100 years gives 1.8C to 3C and we'll get more than that as we've already overshot 350ppm by some way, and indeed we are at ~460ppmCO2e, which although basically equivalent to 400ppm CO2 due to sulphur dioxide shading, when that shading goes (stopping fossil fuels) then that puts back to ~460ppmCO2e and from that means 2C by 2050, even if all fossil fuels CO2 emissions are stopped 2010(1), so any extra CO2 to build future power provision is a huge risk and getting to 350ppm means a miracle.
    1. H. Damon Matthews1 & Kirsten Zickfeld2 , Climate response to zeroed emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, Nature Climate Change Volume: 2, Pages: 338–341 Year published: (2012)
    There is also a huge inertia in the system, you can't suddenly change Granny Dot's highly energy intensive house with a coal fire overnight, there is a lag to do the renovations etc, and Granny Dot makes good news headlines if cold, so a substantial part of the gamble is to keep the essentials ticking as transformational change occur.
    Therefore all power capability replacement by renewables and their maintenance is part of the additional carbon gamble and not really savings CO2 emissions just over whole service time of the technology is much less of CO2 gamble for the same power generation than coal say, but still a gamble, and Nuclear upfront carbon costs are quite significant, building a nuclear power plant costs lots of carbon emissions, and if not using fossil fuels due to urgency of situation there is no payback to be accounted for.
    So what power sources to replace whole current supply?
    No chance of doing that if we want to get 350ppm.
    Therefore powering down as much as possible becomes essential and is relevant to all on all fronts.
    And then there are the other environmental impacts of the energy provision technologies and they all have several which are significant and biodiversity impacting and only biomass (very highly limited (Mackay converted 75% of land to biomass production, anyone noticed the crop failures recently (US drought 2012, Russia 2010 and so and on) so that is extremely limited especially in sustainable production ethos.
    So what power production system the one with the least emissions to make and impacts for the most electricity out.
    And then of course have to consider secondary thing s for the CO2 emissions budget, like how much carbon emissions will replacing the car fleet to electric costs, how toxic are those batteries, that last how not long, all that new infra-structure, rubber plantations for wheels, electronics (e waste) and so on and on, and as for planes well where do start.
    Yes the choices are seemingly difficult, but how many animals, birds, and humans do car kill each year, and thus how healthier would we be, especially if we walked and cycled. Of course that would mean changing whole lifestyles and the way we do things at a fundamental level.
    Where do we go from here?
    Basically we power down with creative innovation or we don't and we power with through the forces of nature.
    Can a low power society be healthy, and well being focused or is that dependent on techno-power generation and all the high power activities we have become too.
    Anyway, long long way to go, and at present BAU is full steam ahead, there is no will to power down, thus we are facing a situation beyond adaptation and thus civilization choas is inevitable unless everyone every day starts taking this seriously in every way.
    Having said that, I'm down to about 23Kwh/day, 8400Kwh year (including space heating etc)and live a good and fortunate lifestyle with warm house, good food, but I don't drive, fly, travel as little as possible, buy all clothes etc from charity shops, follow very low meat diet, insulated my home etc, have no fridge, lower power appliances (washer, (all drying by natural means), induction hob), primarily heat only rooms used at time (with biomass, don't heat bedroom in UK, stays at about 10C to 14C in winter), have solar hot water, where jumpers and long johns, buy organic, but do still use cpu for work etc, so could go further but that would need a change in work place practices etc, doable.
    What power provision technology do I advocate?
    Well wind has a limited place so long as not misplaced (do kill birds, bats and biodiversity impacts on oceans need repairs, rare earth magnets, paints, concrete, steel, landscape disturbance, do warm the land, and dry it, can change the localities weather, easily corroded out to sea, but despite all that can be placed well and low'ish impacts ), solar panels so far made should all be used as long as possible (I do think production of them should now stop though, just like coal mining), nuclear has a huge carbon cost but the power plants running will add lots of valuable power, hydro has potential especially in some areas, however it does cause large scale environmental issues to set up and release lots of methane in use (GHG in tropics worse than coal due to this), heat pumps not that efficient really, biomass is very limited resource, fusion would be nice but what happens to the neutron radiation and they haven't exactly cracked it yet, hydrogen need s a source and hard to store and so on, so all quite limited really.
    So back to power down and prepare for intermittency, for the amount of power we use now isn't just not sustainable it is going to wipe us out.
    Power down, yes involves some apparent sacrifices but also many gains, cheap, easy, low cost, definitely much healthier, no cars (healthier), and makes you more creative to get by which is actualy a good experienjce I find, and so on and so on and of course there will be 9billion people and that is some large scale low CO2 potential power source, so long as they eat a low carbon diet but that might mean much more manual work overall???

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  49. Ranyl, you say solar and wind are not sustainable, but implicit in the assumption is that energy required to make them must comes carbon sources. Not so - it can come from renewable sources too. The energy plans in MacKay cover all energy usage. You need carbon to make steel, because you use CO as the reducing agent, but if the only thing we used carbon for was making steel, then the environment is easily able to mop up the emissions.

    Your "power-down" scenario lacks any arithmetic. You have only consider "personal" usage without considering your work usage - 2/3 of the energy use. Furthermore, unless you advocate totalitarianism, you cannot force your lifestyle on other people.

    Ultimately, the only renewable source of energy is the sun, (biomass, wind are forms of solar, as is ultimately hydro), tide, and geothermal (in special areas only). Beside that is nuclear. I am surprised to hear you think that PV (with recycling of panels), is more environmentally dangerous than nuclear. Do you also advocate instant stopping of CPUs etc. because, they are the same process? You seems to have dismissed solar CSP completely (no solar panels involved, only mirrors).

    The crunch about climate change is the speed. There isnt an optimum CO2 level, but change has to be slow enough that adaptation can take place. Anything that slows climate change will help. Of course, virtually nothing would be more effective than holding world population at current level or below.

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  50. "Ranyl, you say solar and wind are not sustainable, but implicit in the assumption is that energy required to make them must comes carbon sources. Not so - it can come from renewable sources too. The energy plans in MacKay cover all energy usage. You need carbon to make steel, because you use CO as the reducing agent, but if the only thing we used carbon for was making steel, then the environment is easily able to mop up the emissions."

    Assuming all the parts of renewable technologies have a plentiful resource, not really sure about that from several metals etc, and there are always losses from corrosion (esp. Marine) and recycling so they can't be sustainable forever, but that is picking hairs, and yes if full recycling done and all energy from renewables to make them they might be able to be enclosed in a cradle to cradle like scenario for some time, so for you we can make as many as we like, power through despite the carbon costs to make enough to keep manufacturing them and that is higher than thought as for wind say that would need transforming all the steel furnaces to electric, cement kilns, for solar the solar panel factories (use gas at present), glass factories, all the factories that make all the chemicals for all the processes, so a large carbon cost to put this system in place but then we can adapt to whatever?

    Or might we blow the carbon budget further and tip something that the IPCC is quite likely now.

    "You seems to have dismissed solar CSP completely (no solar panels involved, only mirrors)."

    No just have not mentioned them for the UK, as not really viable but yes in other places have a place, of course still have impacts, high grade mirrors are made of something special (what is the reflecting metal) and break, and the tower and the storage technique but could be lower in comparison to PV, but still quite large upfront carbon cost and that is what matters in global warming the total amount of carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we already have a dangerous debt not a budget.
    My power down scenario also isn't a scenario and the arithmetic was put in carbon calculator. The 800Kwh/yr is actually for 2 of us as well and I work ~60% from home (included in that) and work in a low energy intensive organization, where I use as little energy as I can, so still not exactly much used. However that is me and as I say I am fortunate and have an easy life like this and I don't tell anyone to do anything that is up to them, I just say this is what I do and the reason why and that the reason I would go further is that we have no carbon to spend. We are witnessing one of the fastest rates of warming seen in the geological records and this time the world's ecosystems already on its knees (due to us) and reading the blog post today on mass extinctions this is worrying and further increases that carbon debt really and need to stop introducing anything ecosystem disrupting into the mix.

    "The crunch about climate change is the speed. There isnt an optimum CO2 level, but change has to be slow enough that adaptation can take place. Anything that slows climate change will help. Of course, virtually nothing would be more effective than holding world population at current level or below."

    Yes the speed is critical and the sulfur burn we'll get if we ever stop using fossil fuels or clean up the tailpipes properly will be significant, however the final degree C rise is totally dependent on the total amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere, the more we put in the higher it goes, and yes the faster we put it in the quicker the temperature rises which as you say quite rightly does have further consequences, as the peak temp. rise is higher and that could push us past some more serious tipping point. As 350ppm means an equilibrium temp. of 3-5oC higher if the Pliocene records are reasonable estimates right then being at 400ppm does mean we have a huge carbon debt and no carbon to play with anymore. Therefore a carbon debt and an extinction rates at record levels even before warming gets really going and previous warming’s from mass CO2 releases like this have caused extensive ecosystem failures.

    As for computer yes if the world expectations changed to not need CPU for almost everything and I could do a worthwhile job then yes I would be happy to give up on CPU, I am trapped in professional use at present but do use that job to try get as many people as possible to learn about the situation and to want to power down, to use low environmentally impacting energy provision techniques and rationalize that we have a carbon debt not a budget and thus no carbon to spend as such just a gamble that the amount extra we know put in won't shift the global mean temperature too far and that a further tipping point isn't induced.

    Therefore my questions again to keep the CO2 gamble to a minimum and thus the temperature rise to a minimum are;

    What is a safe peak and what is the 2100 goal?
    How much carbon should we gamble on future energy provision set up?
    How much carbon should we gamble on adaptation measures?
    How much carbon should we gamble on building renovations and new builds?
    How much carbon should be spend on moving large areas of Bangladesh, Florida (sea level rise doesn't care if your American or whatever), West Wales coastline?
    Can you make electric helicopters to repair the offshore wind?
    How much carbon should we invest in water security in terms of both supply and flooding protection?
    How much carbon should we risk on health care security?
    How much carbon should we gamble on totally changing the car fleet to electric vehicles?
    What is safe here?
    What are the risks?
    What does 2oC mean in terms of extremes considering what we are getting already?
    How hot is Australia again already, how many destructive heat waves, droughts and floods are they having again??? UK? Central Europe? China?
    How much more carbon can we gamble just to keep the lights on?






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