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A Hard Deadline: We Must Stop Building New Carbon Infrastructure by 2018

Posted on 13 July 2015 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from The Leap by Stephen Leahy

In only three years there will be enough fossil fuel-burning stuff—cars, homes, factories, power plants, etc.—built to blow through our carbon budget for a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Never mind staying below a safer, saner 1.5°C of global warming. The relentless laws of physics have given us a hard, non-negotiable deadline, making G7 statements about a fossil fuel-phase out by 2100 or a weak deal at the UN climate talks in Paris irrelevant.

“By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again unless they’re either replacements for old ones or are carbon neutral? Are you sure I worked that out right?” I asked Steve Davis of the University of California, co-author of a new climate study.

“We didn’t go that far in our study. But yes, your numbers are broadly correct. That’s what this study means,” Davis told me over the phone last fall.

Davis and co-author Robert Socolow of Princeton University published a groundbreaking paper in Environmental Research Letters last August, entitled “Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions.” A new coal plant will emit CO2 throughout its 40- to 60- year lifespan. That’s called a carbon commitment. A new truck or car will mean at least 10 years of CO2 emissions. Davis and Socolow’s study estimated how much CO2 will be emitted by most things that burn oil, gas, or coal, and it is the first to actually total up all of these carbon commitments.

Based on their work, I estimated that if we continue to build new fossil fuel burning stuff at the average rate of the last five years, we’ll make enough new carbon commitments to blow through our 2°C carbon budget sometime in 2018.

“Is that really where we are?” I asked Davis.

There was a pause, and I could hear the happy sounds of children playing from his end of the phone. Eventually Davis said “yes, that’s where we find ourselves.”

Our conversation then became awkward. I suddenly felt guilty bringing this up, and desperately tried not to think that one day those happy children will despise us for leaving them a ransacked planet whipsawed by a chaotic climate.

“My kids’ swimming lesson is over, I have to go,” he finally said.

I couldn’t accept that we need to immediately slow production of new things like factories, hospitals, homes, and ten thousand other things that use fossil fuels. I couldn’t accept that everything had to change…right away. I sent out emails to leading scientists in different countries practically begging them to tell me I screwed up the math or something. “It’s a different way of looking at where we are but you’ve got it right,” they said.

2018 is less than three years away and hardly anyone is talking about this.

Well-established science that says global CO2 emissions need to peak and decline before 2020. Wait until after 2020 and the costs of reducing emissions rise rapidly, as does the risk of exceeding 2°C. The 2018 deadline is consistent with this. It just happens to be a more meaningful way of looking at where we stand, and the consequences of the decisions being made today to build a school, a data center, or 10,000 diesel-powered farm tractors.

One reason 2°C is becoming increasingly unreachable is that everyone is fixated on annual CO2 emissions. While humanity pumped an eye-popping 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2014, that big number looks tiny compared to the roughly 1,000 billion tons of CO2—or 1,000 gigatons (Gt)—that can be emitted for a better than 50-50 chance of staying below 2°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report.

And yet, without making different choices today, we will have built enough stuff by 2018 to have accounted for that entire budget. We could shut things down before their end-of-life date, but who is going to make that happen? Who is going to pay for such “stranded assets”?

When I asked Robert Socolow of Princeton about all this, he said: “We’ve been hiding what’s going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments.”

To repeat: “A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments.”

Right now the data shows that “we’re embracing fossil fuels more than ever,” Socolow said.

In May, Volvo announced a new $500 million factory in the US that will produce 100,000 cars a year in 2018. Not to pick on one car company, but the CO2 from those cars will take us over the 2°C budget, further into the danger zone of climatic disaster.

Decisions made today matter more than any time in human history.

Carbon dioxide is like a slow, trans-generational poison. Add CO2 to the atmosphere today and it will trap additional heat from the sun for hundreds of years. No one will notice in 2018 that we’ve built enough fossil fuel infrastructure to blow through the 2°C budget. Things won’t look or feel too much different than right now. The extremely nasty impacts of being trapped in an ever-hotter world won’t be fully felt until 2030 or 2040 —and then they will persist for a very, very long time.

It is blindingly obvious that building more things that use coal, oil, and gas equals more CO2 emissions. And building these things keeps it profitable for companies and countries to invest in extracting more climate-destroying fossil fuels.

Even a seven-year old child knows you don’t solve a problem by making it worse.

There is a slow shift underway to replace fossil fuels, but it’s not happening nearly fast enough considering the massive carbon commitments in the stuff we already have built—and continue to build. Politicians, business leaders, investors, planners, bureaucrats don’t seem to understand this. They don’t seem to truly grasp that decisions made today commit us and every generation that follows to greater levels of CO2. At some point those decisions will be undone. What was built will be abandoned at enormous cost. We should not forget who deserves the blame and the bill.

This is what the upcoming Paris climate talks are actually about—except that few of the people who will meet inside the giant Le Bourget conference hall know it. Or if they do, they don’t talk about it. Someone should.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 55:

  1. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is happening in the real world, mostly in developing countries. Please see this Vox article about coal infrastucture in the works. Very worrysome!

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed link. Please use the link button in the editor in future.

  2. 350ppm means at least 1.6C temperature rise (Pliocene temperature 2C estimated by Hansen 2011 and assuming 60% heating 100 years), and as the temperature for the early Pliocene (last time CO2 350ppm -400ppm), is most often estimated to be between 3C-5C this implies a more likely temperature rise of 1.8C to 3C, for 350ppm.

    And 350ppm by 2100 means there hasn't been any carbon budget for some while and the atmospheric CO2 will have been >than 350ppm for >100 years even if 350ppm is achieved, therefore 60% of the warming by 2100, the 1.8C (luckiest result) to 3C(worst case scenario) is kind of inevitable.

    Further stopping all carbon emission today and 350ppm isn’t achieved until 2200 even if all CO2 emissions stopped in 2010, if permafrost releases are counted, and that is not mentioning, forest fires, peat fires, and the reduced biosphere fertilizer affect if synthetic nitrogen fertilisers use is reduced.

    Even further clean the air of sulphur dioxide emissions and the true CO2 levels at present called the CO2e is ~470ppm.

    Can we afford to make anything more by 2018 considering associated carbon emissions?

    How much carbon emissions and biodiversity losses are incurred by none native rubber plantations (mainly for tyres) in China say?

    Nor do they include the carbon emissions from large scale hydro electric dams as these are deemed carbon negative, so a double whammy.

    A couple of interesting articles on the overall effective emissions from renewables and the author's don't seem to be fossil fuel advocates.

    Richard York1 Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?

    Nature Climate Change Volume: 2, Pages: 441–443, 2012

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

    “Hydropower destroys river ecosystems and threatens the survival of anadromous fish and other aquatic species11.

    Solar voltaic power and wind power, although representing less serious environmental threats than nuclear power and hydropower, require large amounts of material, some of it toxic and energy-intensive to produce, as well as large areas of land to produce substantial amounts of energy12.

    In short, all energy sources have environmental costs.”

    “A general implication of these findings is that polices aimed at addressing global climate change should not focus principally on developing technological fixes, but should also take into account human behaviour in the context of political, economic and social systems.”

    Andrew K. Jorgenson1 Energy: Analysing fossil-fuel displacement

    Journal name: Nature Climate Change Volume: 2, Pages: 398–399 Year published: (2012)

    “Besides contradicting the proportional displacement assumption, York's research adds to the growing body of environmental social science that highlights how societies cannot only rely on technological solutions to reduce fossil-fuel use and thus anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions6, 7, 8. To effectively reduce emissions, societies need to focus on reducing the consumption of energy at both the individual/household level9 and the system level, with strategies geared towards broader changes in the economic, political and cultural spheres10. More broadly, York highlights the importance of integrating research on the human dimensions of climate change — such as the role of individuals and collective human behaviour, the characteristics of social institutions and the complex interrelationships between the world's nations — with research on technological solutions to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions”

    Can humanity get off fossil fuels?

    Realistically considering the current situation is that actualy possible?

    And as powering down is the only to actually prevent fossil fuels emissions, can this down and miantian well being and happiness?

    Can we power down beyond efficiency gains (lots mahcines are very efficient already, people have working on this years, and replacing old inefficinet ones is of course adding to the carbon debt) or it that too much?

    Wouldn't war have to cease to stop carbon emissions?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Excessive white space eliminated.

  3. Apposite to this post is this chart showing historical and projected energy related emissions, and the percentage of our carbon budget used consistent with a 50-50 chance of staying below 2 C at 2100:

    I got the chart from John Baez, who in turn found it in the International Energy Agency report World Energy Outlook Special Report 2015 (Figure 2.3).  It is clear from this graph that we need to halve current emissions by 2040, and (approximately) eliminate emissions by 2065 if we are to avoid overshoot on that less than ideal target.  

    In fact, the chart does not include Land Use Change (LUC) related emissions, which constitute approximately 20% of anthropogenic emissions even now, so those targets are generous and we should expect faster reductions than that if we are to meet the target.  Indeed, it is dubious if all LUC emissions can be eliminated meaning some means of sequestring carbon is a necessity for the future.  As it is unlikely to be cost effective, however, emissions reduction should be the first objective were possible.

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  4. "[U]nless they’re either replacements for old ones...." seems to suggest that replacing your fossil fuel dinosaur vehicle with another such fossil fuel vehicle is OK. Clearly, it is not. Great article although I am sure that with permafrost and methane clathrate emissions, which are already accelerating in the Arctic, it is already too late to prevent a 2C global atmospheric temp increase. 

    Please eliminate the "either replacements for old ones" part or explain to me what I am not understanding.  We must each and everyone of us go carbon negative as soon as possible. No excuses.

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  5. Tom Curtis:

    You are in good company...

    In Paris Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a climate physicist and chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, called for "an induced implosion of the carbon economy" over the next few decades, a shift he compared with efforts to end slavery in the last few decades of the 19th century. Without such a momentous shift in the global energy system, there is "not the slightest chance of avoiding dangerous, maybe disastrous climate change."

    Zero Carbon or Bust: Scientists remind policy makers that CO2 pollution must end--and soon by David Biello, Scientific American, July 13, 2015

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  6. Tom R: You are taking a phrase of a sentence out of context. Here is the context. 

    “By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again unless they’re either replacements for old ones or are carbon neutral? Are you sure I worked that out right?” I asked Steve Davis of the University of California, co-author of a new climate study.

     The above is the second paragaph of the OP. 

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  7. John Hartz @5, Schellnhuber is good company indeed.  Thankyou.


    In a previous thread I wrote:

    "[It] is quite obvious that if it is acceptable, in 2018, to replace existing houses or to build carbon neutral houses, then it is also acceptable to replace an existing house with two 50% carbon neutral houses; or to modify an existing house to halve its carbon emissions, and build a new house with just 50% of current emissions per house, and so on. In particular, each 1% reduction in emissions from national electricity generation makes room for further economic growth.

    Ergo, Stephen Leahy's formula sounds dramatic, it really represents only a formula for no more emissions growth from 2018. Rather than a cessation of emissions growth (and hence ongoing growth in CO2 concentration), what the world needs is the almost complete elimination of net anthropogenic emissions by 2050, and hence on the order of a 3% reduction in global emissions per annum. That is a doable target. Even with slow initial progression, a genuine attempt to move in that direction will allow very rapid strides in the near future. It is not, however, something on which we can delay - and each year that we delay - each year you win your struggle for inaction makes the cost of transition higher (because it must be more rapid), and the end benefit lower (because of increased global warming durring the delay)."

    Obviously, even in context I agree with TomR's interpretation.  As to his suggested strategy, I do not believe it is necessary or achievable as a globally averaged target.  However, if we are to limit emissions on a per capita basis, as is required by simple considerations of justice, Western societies, and their citizens individually must indeed go net carbon negative as soon as possible, or purchase unused per capita emission credits from the third world to make up any overshoot.

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  8. "To avoid global warming of as much as 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the scientists suggested civilization has a total budget of 900 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the world has already added roughly 592 billion metric tons since 1780."

    From article @JH 5.

    So less budget than the fictious 1000billion Tom C's diagram shows for 4C.

    "The argument against CCS is strong. Critics, however, often overlook the fact that making steel and making cement—the fundamental substrates of all power plants, whether wind turbines and solar rooftops or new nuclear—spew copious CO2, as does making the fertilizer that has made more than seven billion humans on the planet today possible. If the goal is zero- or negative emissions, these emissions will have to be eliminated. The only proposal at present to do so is CCS."

    CCS is very expensive and reduces power plant efficiency even if powered by biomass.

    Although the carbon negative claims are theoretically possible, most massive biomass production production is heavily carbon emissions loaded due to industrial farming, land change, fertilizers (production), pesticides, processing and tansport, and if power plant less efficient you need more biomass to get the same power an therefore more potential conflict with food and biomaterials production.

    I'm with Tom R all carbon negative asap, and call for chances of avoiding serious stuff 1:20 chnace which is common level for medical practioneers to consider thngs safe, i.e. there is a less than 1:20 chance that the treatment doesn't actually improves things.

    If people keep contemplating a budget rather than a huge debt people will just do lots of fancy accounting and CO2 emissions will just keep on going up.

    And don't forget the mass extinction event, implying the earth ecosystem needs repairing quickly as well, making things like pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, pollution, e-waste, rare earth metals, mining, deforestation and anything associated with toxic waste production kind of not sensible either.

    Where do stand?

    Let face it people are more worried about Scotish MP's voting on fox hunting than all this environmental stuff.

    Someone recently said to me that they felt I had good points but prefered just to not take notice as it meant they just function in their lifes, which were hard enough without having to worry about enviromentlachange as well.

    For me the only way to turn things arround on a tupence (as needed) is for everyone to want to.

    But at present it seems everyone wants to maintain BAU at all costs, be it powered by fossil fuels or the alternative environmental and GHG associated energy production systems available; playing at being accountants and accountants can make anything look rosey if they try hard enough.

    Wonder how many more extremely extrem weathe revents in a row will be needed before cliamte change is a high priority for everyone and not just a political tool to say the right thing about and hope for the children that its all been hot air?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Excessive white space eliminated.

  9. Actually, I'm with TomR on needing an explanation of the 'replacements clause'. As worded, it would appear to indicate that we could continue replacing existing old coal plants with new ones indefinitely and never hit 2C... so long as we stopped building 'non-replacement' carbon commitments by 2018. Which is certainly false and thus presumably not the intent.

    Also, the 2018 figure is based on an assumption that any new carbon emissions sources will continue operating for their expected lifetime. I suspect that is unlikely to be true for many. In the US we have already seen coal plants being shut down prior to normal end of life because it has become more cost effective to build and operate new natural gas plants than continue running some old coal plants. As solar and wind power costs decline we are likely to see a similar result... with both coal and natural gas plants shutting down early in favor of cheaper renewable power. Indeed, the likelihood of fossil fuel plants becoming such 'stranded assets' is already causing a decline in investment in these technologies.

    The point at which CO2 emissions must peak to meet the 2C target is inherently a factor of both total emissions up to that point and rate of reduction afterwards. Until we have some kind of handle on what rate of reductions is likely to occur it isn't possible to define 2018 or any other year as the 'necessary peak year'.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I have asked the author of the OP, Stephen Leahy, to chime in on this issue. 

  10. I'm with CBDunkerson here. Anyone investing in carbon emitting infrastructure is making a massively risky investment... Not even a risky investment, they're making an investment that is not going to return a profit. 

    Think about what's likely to happen over the course of the next 40 years. We are certain to see more and more extreme weather events. We're going to see more and more of exactly what scientists have been saying all along. It's going to become abundantly obvious, far beyond what it is already, that we have big trouble on our hands. 

    At some point it's not a question of who's going to make the decision to shut coal plants down. It's going to be, how fast can we shut them all down, and how much disruption are we going to see from the shut down?

    I feel fairly confident that humanity will be at or near zero carbon emissions by 2050, one way or another. What I'm not certain about is whether we can do it in a methodical, systemized fashion designed to produce the least impact to people and economies.

    What I think the world's capital investments (specifically, the world's capital investments in carbon production and use) are doing is pushing us toward a chaotic transition.

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  11. ranyl @8, the IEA Outlook says:

    "In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that to preserve a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 2 °C, the world can support a maximum carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions “budget” of 3 000 gigatonnes (Gt) (the mid-point in a range of 2 900 Gt to 3 200 Gt) (IPCC, 2014), of which an estimated 1 970 Gt had already been emitted before 2014. Accounting for CO2 emissions from industrial processes and land use, land-use change and forestry over the rest of the 21st century leaves the energy sector with a carbon budget of 980 Gt (the midpoint in a range of 880 Gt to 1 180 Gt) from the start of 2014 onwards."

    For comparison, 3 000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide is 817. 4 gigatonnes of Carbon, ie, about 20% less than the well known target of a trillion tonnes of carbon.  More to the point, the energy sector target shown in the diagram above represents 980 GtCO2, or 267 GtC.  These are figures based on the latest IPCC report, and hence are hardly "fictitious".  Further, they are figures for a 2 C target.

    More importantly, these figures represent emissions, not CO2 concentrations.  The target scenario stabilizes at a CO2 concentration of 450 ppmv.  That represents 360 GtC (1320 GtCO2) above preindustrial levels.  In contrast, 592 billion metric tonnes of CO2 represents an atmospheric increase of 76 ppmv (ie 356 ppmv total concentration); and a total increase of 900 billion tonnes represents 116 ppmv, for a total target of 396 ppmv.  That means if we accept the, presumably non fictional values from the quote from the article linked by JH we have already exceeded the target for 4 C; and that the climate sensitivity is 2.1 C per W/m^2, or 7.8 C per doubling of CO2.  

    I think such a prediction as the central estimate (50-50 chance) can safely be described as alarmist.  

    Rather than the scientists at the conference being so alarmist, it is more likely that David Biello is massively mistaken about what the scientists said.  (Most likely he has mistaken emissions for CO2 content in the atmosphere).

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  12. Rob Honeycutt @10:

    "I feel fairly confident that humanity will be at or near zero carbon emissions by 2050"

    I wish I shared that confidence.  I think it is still at least an even chance that emissions in 2050 will be greater than current emissions.  I don't expect the climate denial disinformation machine to pack it in anytime between now and 2050, and neither have we seen any major turnaround in the US, Australia or India that would lead to confidence of achieving zero emissions by 2050.

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  13. Tom... Unfortunately, changes in social norms are unpredictable and erratic. That's the achilles heel to all the projections: How and when humans will actually respond suficiently to the challenge.

    It's seems to me our response is going to be a little like the 100th monkey effect. At some point there will be a shift where people, en mass, will accept there is a problem and respond. Depending on when that actually occurs will dictate how rapidly the response is required. 

    I guess I just have a hard time imaging that in 2050 there are going to be very many people running around saying there's no problem. I think denial has its limits.

    It also bears acknowledging, there a lot of positive things happening. Wind and solar are being built out at a rapid pace, and their costs continue to fall. The auto industry is showing great progress in shifting toward electric vehicles, with nearly every major company launching EV's in the coming years. This past year was the first year we saw carbon emissions decouple from economic growth, which was something many said was impossible. 

    It's definitely not enough and not fast enough, but these are the things that have to happen, and they are happening. 

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  14. On a personal level, here is something I tell people that relates to stranded assets: Carefully consider your next vehicle purchase.

    If you buy a big, gas guzzling SUV as your next new car, there is a strong likelihood that you will get next to zero resale value when you want to trade it in. Potentially that's true for many ICE vehicles as prices fall for EV's and their availability expands.

    It'll be curious to watch what happens in the vehicle leasing market as the shift occurs. This could rapidly become a massive liability for those leasing companies.

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  15. Fortunately China is working its toosh off converting to renewable energy.  Her rate of construction of new fossil fuel plant is going down rapidly and she seems to always exceed any promises in this regard that she makes.  Her motivations are not just climate change which will impact on her very hard.  She doesn't want to be caught by the short and curlies, dependent on overseas energy.  I wish the US of A would follow suit.  Without sorting out PPCT, she never will.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] link removed.

  16. The essential point is that the exisiting infrastructure of industrialized civilization irreversibly uses fossil fuels at a high rate, so produces greenhouse gases at a high rate. That is the situation now. Policies to reduce the usage of fossil fuels can only slow down the rate of emissions slowly. The current atmospheric concentration level is 400 ppm and this will continue to increase even as the rate of emissions decreases. The continuing absorption of emissions in the oceans will only slow down the global atmospheric warming but at the expense of the damaging acidification of the oceans. Limiting the warming to 2 deg Celsius is not  feasible even if policies are adopted to reduce the rate of fossil fuels as rapidly as practical.

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  17. Whilst I agree with the article and it's undoubtedly gloomy and likely conclusions, there is a form of Carbon Capture which is gaining traction all over the world which I have never seen on this forum, - not that I read the majority of articles, - however, I am referring to Terra Preta, now usuallly called Biochar, which is the practice of mixing charcoal with compost and using this as compost.

    The charcoal part of this mix remains in the soil with the nutrients from the compost and makes the goodies available to plants (becomes 'Permanent Compost' whilst also acting as nurseries for huge populations of soil biota, which also stimulate the plants.

    This has two major effects, one the carbon is sequestered for huge periods of time,- Terra Preta paddocks in South America have had the charcoal measured to be there 7000 years- those paddocks contain 30% charcoal down to 1 metre, in fact it has been calculated that if all the tropical areas of our planet went over to Biochar we would remove all the carbon dioxide added by industrial development since 1800 whatever, - although I have not seen how long estimated.

    Nontheless it is a significant thought.

    The second major effect is the increased, often spectacularly increased soil fertility, which adds a significant element/motivation, economics, ie you make money with it, very hard with CCS

    Less major effects include greatly increasing the water retention ability of the soil, and locking up most toxins in the soil.

    The point is that the Biochar movement is significantly growing all over the world, almost all using waste carbon, which would otherwise have returned to the air and much of it happening at grass roots level and it is a message of hope, whereas requiring the rich and powerful to make the required sacrifices seems to me to be a hopeless.

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  18. If nuclear power hadn't been demonised so successfully, the world could have had a decarbonised electricity supply by now.


    SKS is a very popular climate science website, and rightly so, but in all the years I've followed this website, I've seen a lot of talk about renewables as a solution to AGW, but almost nothing about nuclear. Indeed, whenever nuclear has come up, it has been attacked and disparaged. That is a pity, because as this article shows, it is now almost too late to prevent 2C of warming.

    I wonder if the decades of antinuclearism which has prevented nuclear power from achieving global hegemony instead of coal could not have been prevented if scientists had spent a little less time advocating for people to reduce co2 emissions, and a little more time on explaining to the public that nuclear power is in fact a bona fide and effective way to achieve credible climate protection, let alone elimination of air pollution from electricity generation.

    P.S. (I have been banned from this website (which I greatly value) for years now, for being a determined pro-nuclear advocate. My first account was "JvD". I hope that re-registering under a new account is acceptable, since I've spent so much time being banned in penance. If not acceptable, please excuse me and just ban this account as well. Thank you.)

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  19. JvD @18, what has kept the world from nuclear has not been demonization but the simple fact that its levelized cost is greater than that of coal (see table 11.1a):


    LCOE $/MWh 74 56-67 44 51-77 33-74 71

    Pulverised coal
    LCOE $/MWh 47 45 51 36-44 28-75 51-53

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  20. Tom, I believe you are mistaking cause for effect. Demonisation undermines public acceptance of nuclear, which increases the cost of nuclear (the extreme 'negative learning curve' of nuclear as seen in antinuclear countries). In China and other non-antinuclear countries, the exact same nuclear power plant costs only half as much as in antinuclear countries like the USA. Public acceptance is the cause of this difference. Cost is merely a symptom of public acceptance.

    By the way, the 'nuclear is too expensive' argument seems contrived, because solar and wind energy are even more expensive than expensive nuclear. Yet popular 'green' mythology holds that we can solve the climate crisis with wind and solar, never mind the cost. It seems one can't disparage nuclear over cost issues while hailing far more expensive solar and wind as the end-all and be-all of climate protection, no can one?

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  21. Page 19 of this IEA publication clearly shows that nuclear is far cheaper in asia-pacific countries than in the USA.

    The only credible explanation is the high cost of rabid antinuclearism in the USA and other countries.

    My point is that scientists have spent too much time urging humanity to stop emitting co2, while failing to urge humanity to stop being antinuclear.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Unsubstantiated and argumentative assertion stricken. Please cease and desist including statments like this in your posts.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.


  22. JvD @20 & 21, I notice from page 17 of the report that onshore wind costs more in Europe than in the Asian countries.  Is this also because of the "demonization" of renewables in Europe?  Apparently that is "the only credible explanation" in this sort of case.

    What is noteworthy is that while the values I quoted are for studies of historical, actually operating plants, the values from the various bar charts are for Gen III nuclear plants; and include a carbon price of $30 a tonne for coal.  The report feels it is necessary to report that " that there are great uncertainties concerning
    the cost of carbon capture, which has not yet been deployed on an industrial scale" but feels no need to report similar uncertainties on the price third gen nuclear reactors, which have also "not yet been deployed on an industrial scale".  The important point, however, is that the bar charts you are rellying on do not reflect historical values and hence are irrelevant to the point I made.

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  23. Tom, are you suggesting that solar and wind power are more likely to eliminate global coal burning than nuclear power, and hence that scientists have been right to focus on the need to reduce co2 emissions rather than the need to remove irrational barriers to nuclear deployment?

    I'm not sure I understand what overarching point you are trying to make here.

    Concerning wind in Europe, it is clear that onshore wind in Europe tends to be costly, not so much due to the cost of the technology itself, but due to the cost of NIMBY and the high cost of land, which is getting worse because many of the best locations have already been tapped. But yes, there has been a kind of 'demonisation' of onshore wind energy growing in Europe. The concern is not so much the result of a misunderstanding of safety issues as with nuclear (although there have been a few horrific fatalities in the wind industry in recent years, which briefly made headlines), as it is the high cost of subsidies, the spoilage of views, the bird and bat mortality, the emerging issue of the financial and environmental cost of the additional powerlines needed, and the particular noise polution caused by the turbines. A number of European countries have recently shut down subsidies for onshore wind for this reason. All in all, I don't think it is difficult to understand why onshore wind is a bit more expensive in Europa than in the Asian pacific region. It's probably not about irrational demonisation as is the case with nuclear.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please tone down the rhetoric and avoid unsustantiated global assertions. 

  24. Tom Curtis, I disagree that 'we have not seen any major turnaround in the US'. US CO2 emissions per capita peaked at 22.51 metric tons in 1973 and were down to 16.3 in 2012. Yes, that is still higher than most countries (though not Australia), but a 28% reduction (most of it in the past several years) seems like a "major turnaround" to me. Similarly, total US CO2 emissions peaked at 5.928 billion metric tons in 2007 and were down to 5.181 billion in 2012... a 13% reduction in five years.

    The world record for lowest cost solar power purchase agreement has been broken twice in the past month... both for new plants in the US southwest. Wind and solar power generation have tripled in the US since Obama became president. Average fuel efficiency of US vehicles is rising rapidly. Et cetera. There are a lot of different indicators showing that the United States has turned the corner on carbon pollution. Certainly still a long way to go, but the US has been heading in the right direction for several years now.

    As to when we will see a global transition... I don't think it will have as much to do with the '100th monkey' as with the financiers. At this point, the only reason fossil fuels are still hanging on is that they've got powerful financial lobbies behind them. If even just the overt subsidies, to say nothing of the massive 'external costs' from their health and environmental effects, were withdrawn fossil fuels could not compete with solar and wind power now. By 2020 they won't be able to compete even with the benefit of subsidies. That situation is not sustainable. The political favor which is propping up the fossil fuel industry is purchased via campaign contributions and lobbiests. As fossil fuel profits continue to get squeezed (as oil profits are currently being squeezed like never before) the money available to buy that political favor will decline... just as the money available for wind and solar companies to do the same increases. Renewables have already started to receive some of the favorable treatment previously enjoyed by fossil fuels. That will only snowball as each benefit to renewables pushes fossil fuels further and further behind. In the end, I expect a rapid collapse of fossil fuel financial and political influence. At which point, the misinformation campaign will also stop and the '100th monkey' will realize that they believed in global warming all along... because the people telling them what to think will then be getting their money from 'big renewable'. No way we aren't in the midst of full scale global conversion to renewable power before 2030 unless some major new technological breakthru comes along with a less expensive alternative.

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  25. JvD, yes the high cost of nuclear power is largely due to safety measures... which are required due to fear of meltdowns... which exists because the nuclear power industry cut corners and continued using outdated plant designs (e.g. Chernobyl) and old reactors (e.g. Fukushima) long after they should have been abandoned.

    However, the only thing that matters is that they are expensive. Why that is the case would only be relevant if there were some realistic way of changing it in the immediate future... which there isn't. Yep, without Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima the whole world would very likely be running on relatively cheap nuclear power by now. But that isn't the reality we live in. Every time nuclear power could have really started to take off and become competitive there has been a disaster and the technology has instead fallen further behind.

    Now that it has reached the point that wind and solar are both cheaper than nuclear there is no chance that current commercial nuclear power designs will ever become a major contributor. None. Maybe some new technological breakthru will make some form of nuclear financially viable again in the future, but until then nuclear isn't going anywhere.

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  26. Are there any proposed bills in any government body anywhere in the world calling for a halt to all production of ff-burning machines, vehicles, buildings and plants by the year 2018?

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  27. CBD: "If even just the overt subsidies, to say nothing of the massive 'external costs' from their health and environmental effects, were withdrawn fossil fuels could not compete with solar and wind power now."

    That is incorrect. Fossil fuel tax revenues dwarf fossil fuel pre-tax subsidies in a ratio of 8 to 1.

    In other words, fossil fuel usage brings in eight times as much tax revenue (in OECD countries) as it takes in subsidies. It is only the external costs (mostly climate impact costs) which can push the cost of fossil fuel energy above the cost of unbuffered(!) solar and wind power.

    That said, buffered wind and solar power (buffered as in: made fully dispatcheable by adding electricity storage and long-distance transmission) is still far more expensive than unmitigated FF, even including FF external costs. That is a serious issue not to be ignored. It implies that relying on solar or wind to replace global FF use will require their permanent financial subsidies, globally, so better make sure the money for that is made available - globally - if we intend to go that route.

    Finally, recent record-breaking PPA's for solar and wind in the US still benefit from exorbitant tax benefits and subsidies, equivalent to up to 75% of their base cost, so these impressively low PPA's do not nearly imply that solar or wind are competitive with FF.

    1 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Youcontinue to make unsubstantiated global asertions, e.g.,

    That said, buffered wind and solar power (buffered as in: made fully dispatcheable by adding electricity storage and long-distance transmission) is still far more expensive than unmitigated FF, even including FF external costs. 

    Unsubstantiated global assertions such as the above are nothing more than sloganeering which is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Please cease and desist immediately.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site. 
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  28. @CBD: the fact that fear of nuclear is universal does not follow from nuclear's performance in terms of safety and environmental effects. Coal based power has killed millions of people, and still kills more people every day, globally, than nuclear has killed in its entire existance.

    My point is that the extraordinary fear of nuclear power is an irrational barrier to having nuclear solve AGW efficiently, which scientists should have spent some time removing in decades past. Instead, scientists have devoted all their attention to urging co2 emission reductions. In the upcoming climate talks in Paris, the focus will again be entirely on agreeing on reduction of global co2 emissions. No effort will be spent on agreeing to reduce global antinuclearism. I think this way of approaching climate policy has failed in the past and it will continue to fail in Paris and beyond.

    You repeat that solar and wind are cheaper than nuclear. Could you explain briefly how solar or wind can ever be cheaper than nuclear on a cloudy, windless day?

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  29. To the moderator,

    It is no controversy that adding electricity storage to solar or wind adds at leasts 10 to 20 ct/kWh, making it grossly uncompetitive even with FF having fully internalised costs.

    By the way, you can always just ask for a source for anything I claim. I never write anything not backed-up by solid evidence. I don't have time for such nonsense. I'll give evidence for all my claims freely, if asked. No need for threats! :)

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] If have neither the time nor inclination to document the sources of your statements, then this website is not for you. 

  30. JvD, the report you link shows that ~94% of those tax revenues come from oil. Conversely, oil accounts for less than 5% of global electricity generation. Basically... you are using gasoline tax revenues, which have nothing to do with electricity generation, to argue that fossil fuel electricity generation is not more expensive when subsidies are removed. Clearly false. The report also shows that ~46% of fossil fuel subsidies go to coal and natural gas, which are primarily used for electricity generation. Rounding that up we could say that roughly half of fossil fuel subsidies go towards electricity generation... while only ~6% of fossil fuel tax revenues come from electricity generation... and suddenly your 'eight times' is going in the opposite direction. That is, fossil fuel electricity generation gets about eight times as much subsidy support as it generates in tax revenues... based on your chosen data.

    Your other claims are similarly flawed. Many countries have been able to install massive amounts of renewable electricity generation (up to 100%) without any storage or long-distance transmission. These things will certainly be required in many countries, but not until the transition to renewable electricity is well underway (say ~50% of electricity generation)... by which point even the combined costs of renewable power and improved grids are expected to be significantly lower than fossil fuels.

    As to solar getting 75% subsidies in the US. Not even close. It's a 30% investment tax credit (dropping to 10% at the end of next year). At either $0.0387/kWh (with subsidies), or $0.0553/kWh (without), the lowest solar PPA prices in the US are now both lower than the national average price. That's more than 'competitive'. Indeed, the subsidized price is lower than any other power generation in the country... except the cheapest wind farms.

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  31. JvD @23, I have no intrinsic objection to nuclear power.  Indeed, I am happy enough with it that I used to stor a sample of uranium ore in my bedroom as a teen, and still consider it short sighted and stupid that Australia persists in operating diesel/electric rather than nuclear submarines.  Having said that:

    1)  Nuclear power as the primary power supply can only be an intermediate term solution as, if it is considered a long term solution, economic growth will result in waste heat becoming as bad a global forcing as CO2 is currently (and a much worse regional forcing);

    2)  Given (1), to the extent that we can solve the need for carbon free energy using renewables, that is a step in the right direction;

    3)  There is no inprinciple reason why renewables cannot supply all our energy needs, even if populations grow to double their current levels, world economic growth continues unabated, and third world per capita GDP catches up with the future levels of western per capita GDP.  However, the use of nuclear power, particularly over the next 50 odd years may substantially reduce the cost of going to a carbon free economy;

    4)  I do not need to determine whether or not a nuclear/renewable mix or a pure renewable strategy will be most cost effective.  Rather, we need to ensure there is an appropriate price on carbon and let investors sort it out; but

    5)  For whatever reasons (rational or irrational), nuclear power is a hard sell in some societies.  At the same time for reasons entirely irrational, effective action on AGW is a hard sell in nearly all societies.  I do not think it is good policy to shackle the later to the former.  Doing so generates a substantial risk that we do not undertake effective action on climate change.  It may have the payoff of making available a cheaper mitigation strategy but only at the substantial risk of having no mitigation strategy.

    Points (4) and (5) are the key points IMO.  I have absolutely no problem with people inclined to do so promoting the use of nuclear power.  As a political policy, I would by likely to vote for it given reasonable confidence of certain safe guards (mostly relating to waste disposal).  I know that those safegaurds are technically feasible, and probably quite cheap to impliment.  But I strenuously object to people attempting to coopt concern for AGW as a mechanism to generate support for nuclear power.  (I have similar, but even stronger objections to coopting concern about AGW to push for negative population growth and/or negative economic growth policies by people who think those are intrinsically desirable in any event.)

    I want to see support for action agains AGW across all parties, whether green, socialist, centrist or conservative.  I am not going to tie support for that action to any secondary issue when they are not essential to solving AGW, even if they would be helpful. 

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  32. JvD @28:

    "the fact that fear of nuclear is universal does not follow from nuclear's performance in terms of safety and environmental effects. Coal based power has killed millions of people, and still kills more people every day, globally, than nuclear has killed in its entire existance."

    That establishes only that the risks of coal powered are under appreciated.  Not that the risks of nuclear have been overestimated.  Of course, it is very probably that those risks have been overestimated by a sizable number of people - but those people have had little influence on regulations.  It is therefore entirely uncertain that overdesign of safety features has needlessly increased the cost of nuclear power.  Given a priori assumptions about the efficiencies of government, it likely that it has been both overregulated in some aspects and under regulated in others (as chernobyl and fukushima demonstrate).

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  33. JvD  It will be interesting to see if in the fullness of time, concerns on effects of wind turbines on the human brain are substantiated or not.  if they are substantiated and that may well not be the case, wind turbines may have to deal with concerns from the public just as the nuclear industry has had to do.  A piece in  The Australian states:

    "There has been a report from the National Metrology Institute of Germany that concludes exposure to infrasound below the range of hearing could stimul­ate parts of the brain that warn of danger. It finds that humans can hear sounds lower than had been assumed and the mechanisms of sound perception are much more complex than previously thought.

    The researchers do not claim the results are definitive regard­ing wind turbines and health impacts, and say more work is needed.

    But the research builds on recen­t work in Japan and Iran — and investigations by NASA dating back to the 1980s — that suggests the health science of wind energy is far from decided and would benefit from further inquiry"

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  34. Joris van Dorp - " solar or wind can ever be cheaper than nuclear on a cloudy, windless day?"

    Because in reality we aren't talking about single solar or wind stations, but rather networked systems extending over geographic areas. And as demonstrated by Archer et al 2007Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by Interconnecting Wind Farms, connecting even as few as 20 wind stations in the US MidWest results in a dependable baseload capacity of 33% average power, as weather systems won't cover all of the locations at once. Adding solar to the mix would greatly increase the available percentage, as would extending the geographic region considered. 

    Overall the papers I've seen indicate that some overcapacity, rather than storage/buffering, is more economic in renewables with current technology. And for the small percent of the time that fossil backup is required, the carbon emissions for that backup amount to only a few percent of the emissions required without renewables. 

    At this point wind energy is one of the cheapest additions to energy portfolios, with utilities increasing their contract purchases accordingly. 

    Nuclear power is certainly an option, and IMO needs to be part of the energy mix - but it's rather expensive (for many reasons), requires very long lead/build times, and notably comes in quite large (as in not incremental) chunks, making it hard to plan for and finance. 

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  35. CBD, the subsidies report I linked considers both "consumer support" subsidies and production support subsidies, which makes it a little complicated to understand exactly how much money goes to subsidise production, which is what should concern us if we want to evaluate the competitive performance of different energy technologies.

    For example, the report considers the fact that oil consumers in many oil exporting countries buy oil products at the domestic cost of production (as opposed to the international market price, which can be several times higher in many cases) as a 'consumption subsidy', and lumps this huge figure (about 400 billion/a) together with actual production subsidies, somewhat obscuring the effective production tax/subsidy situation. 

    Moreover, both these "consumption subsidies" and tax revenues are highest by far for oil products. This follows logically from the fact that oil products are heavily taxed in most OECD countries, while they are sold at the cost of production in most oil exporting countries. 

    Ignoring so-called 'consumption subsidies' for oil,  the 8 to 1 figure for the ratio between tax revenues and production subsidies (~800 billion to ~100) billion is in fact concluded by this report. The report does not show that coal or gas generally recieve more subsidies than they yield in tax revenues, contrary to your claim above. In fact, the report explicitly states that total coal production subsidies are only 3 billion, on page 5. I assume you are aware that this is virtually nothing when considering the massive amount of electricity provided by coal.

    Concerning your PPA figures for recent utility solar in the USA, I have also seen these figures. AFAIK, no details have been provided about the base investment cost. If the solar resource of these projects offers 1700 full load hours of insolation equivalent, if the PPA prices are constant prices, and if the discount factor is 8%, then a PPA price of 0.0553 $/kWh implies a total lifecyle cost of at most 1$/W in present value money, to break even over a 20 year PPA lifetime. This would be very cheap for utility solar. Certainly it is far cheaper than estimates for utility solar from recent literature. It would be good to know how such a low lifecycle cost was achieved.

    Of course, none of this is to say that solar is competitive with FF or nuclear. Even if the 0.0553 is in fact fully unsubsidised (which requires more detailed information on the project finances) then this price only matters during times when the sun is shining. Outside of those hours, the value of these solar plants is zero, since they are not dispatcheable. As such, they are only competitive with FF when the sun shines. That makes solar (or wind) power usefull only as a fuel saving technology for traditional fossil fuel power generation. The fuel cost of coal power is about 3 ct/kWh, so the PPA of solar would have to drop to below 3 ct/kWh to be a competitive fuel saving measure paired with a coal power plant.

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  36. The discussions seems to be getting sidetracked, as happens often in other forums, into another tired, hackneyed discussion about nukes vs renewables.

    This paper is important enough, it seems to me, to discuss it's specific claims and take these side-debates elsewhere.

    Particularly, I would like to know how Andy Skuce's excellent article just posted on this site intersects with the above study. I assume that it would move the "Hard Deadline" date from 2018 to some even earlier date, but I'm not sure how much earlier. 2017? 2016? Now? Last year? Three decades ago??...

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  37. While it is true that countries like Denmark sometimes get >100% of their energy from intermittent renewables, they can only do this because they are part of a larger grid that includes coal, gas, bioenergy, nuclear and hydroelectricity. If we are looking at the maximum feasible penetration of solar and wind, I am (mostly) persuaded by Jesse Jenkins' argument that within a grid, the maximum penetration of intermiitents is going to be about 40%. Of course, this would not apply if there were a cheap electricity storage technology.

    A place worth watching for renewables penetration is Hawaii. With abundant solar, wind and geothermal potential and with current diesel-powered electricity selling at 31cents per kwh (and a legislated mandate to go 100% renewable), this is a place to watch. Or, rather, places to watch since every island has its own grid.

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  38. I largely agree with Joris that opposition to nuclear power on the grounds of safety is unfortunate and that nuclear fear has been exaggerated. Nevertheless, nuclear fear is a global reality and not one that will go away very easily, certainly not by mocking people who are scared of anything radioactive nor, sadly, by lecturing them on the facts of death counts at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island or Fukushima.

    My guess is that many, maybe most, people now have a natural disgust reaction when it comes to nuclear power and that no amount of argument will persuade them otherwise. It's a bit like Americans with their gun culture or my aversion to eating dog. You could tell me how tasty and nutritious dog meat is and that it can be provided without cruelty, but I'm not going to listen to a word you say.

    Public rejection of nuclear power is a sad reality and unless the nuclear industry and its friends can find a better way of changing people's minds, it is not going to become a major player in the future. Nuclear proponents are often proud of their hard-headed approach to facts, but they seem to be in denial of the reality that greatly increasing nuclear power in almost any country is going to run into determined public resistance that won't be overcome for a generation or more.

    Some of the most strident anti-nuclear sentiment I have encountered is in France, which benefits from cheap(ish), carbon-free electricity, produced for decades without a major accident. In the same country, an estimated 40,000 die every year from diesel pollution. 

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  39. Andy Skuce, there will certainly be a limit to intermittent power penetration without storage and/or long distance transmission... but there is no reason that the remainder has to be made up by fossil fuels. There are many countries with large hydro power resources which could be linked to neighboring countries with wind/solar power to provide stable electricity at lower prices. We can see this currently with Denmarks >40% wind power working symbiotically with hydro power in Norway and Sweden. The same could be done with nuclear, but only France really has high enough nuclear penetration to make it feasible (that is, trading their stable baseload for lower cost wind/solar from neighbors).

    Thus, it seems plausible to me that most of Europe, and many other places around the world, could completely decarbonize without needing electrical storage... and again, all indications are that the current free-fall in battery storage costs will continue and make large scale grid storage economically feasible soon. Ergo, lots of reason to think that we could see rapid decarbonization, driven purely by economics, in the coming decades.

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  40. Joris,

    Back to SkS for one thread and already the moderator has had to warn you twice.  You win no friends for your pet cause when you violate the comments policy.

    It is invariably a waste of time to argue Nuclear power in an unrelated thread.  That argument has been made many times, you have added nothing new here (I have made this post at least twice in 2015).

    If you really think that nuclear is worth while, write an OP to support your argument.  Send it to SkS with suitable peer-reviewed data (links to white papers from the nuclear industry are generally not good enough)  I have made this suggestion to  at least 3 other nuclear supporters but none of them think the argument in support of nuclear is strong enough to warrent the time to write the post.  tThis makes me think that even the supporters of nuclear know in their hearts that nuclear cannot be supported.  Go ahead, write the op and show I am wrong.

    Your posts that bring up old, debunked nuclear arguments like battery storage of renewable power and the "demonization" of nuclear power do you no credit.  They make nuclear look worse.  

    Nuclear has not been demonized, it is uneconomic.  The reactors currently being built in the US are 2 years behind schedule and close to double their budget.  Georgia taxpayers are paying for power they may never receive.  Norway is ten years behind schedule.  3 in four nuclear reactors worldwide are way behind schedule and grossly over budget— and most of the ones that are not behind schedule had no data available. 

    In the midwest they are getting ready to shut down existing nuclear plants because they cannot compete with wind.  How could they afford a new nuclear plant?

    In Florida, where I live, we are paying $1.5 billion for a reactor that never broke ground and another $5 billion for a failed upgrade on another reactor.  In California, where I used to live, the San Onofre power plant was shut down after a failed upgrade, billions more in losses.  You cite future costs from estimations by the same engineers who are 10 years behind in Norway and designed the failed San Onofre upgrade.  I certainly trust their estimates--not!!!  Nuclear is uneconomic.

    We always have to rehash everything when you show up because nuclear supporters cannot be bothered to write an op suporting nuclear.  Nuclear should be banned from all other threads until an op is writen so that we do not have to rewrite everything every three months.

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  41. michael sweet @40:

    "Nuclear has not been demonized, it is uneconomic."

    I think it is fairer to say that nuclear has been demonized, but it is also uneconomic.  In particular, US reactors built before the Three Mile Island incident (and hence before the dislike of nuclear had any political teeth) were also uneconomic relative to coal in the US.

    It may fairly be argued that that is only because it was competing against coal that did not include the social cost; and which could be dug out of the ground cheaply and abundantly with minimal transport costs (and again ignoring considerable social costs).  But that also is the cost benchmark solar and wind are expected to exceed, and are on the cusp of exceeding (are exceeding in some cases).

    "If you really think that nuclear is worth while, write an OP to support your argument."

    It may be worthwhile extending that invitation to Barry Brooks of BraveNewClimate to write that post.  If nothing else, he may permit the reposting post to which I directly linked, although it would be better if he fleshed out his arguments.  I suspect he would be more than happy to take up the invitation.  I am sure this could be made agreeable to the members of the SkS team who strongly disagree with nukes (of which there are at least a few) by noting it would provide a location where discussion of nuclear is on topic, and can be matched by an OP providing the counter argument (giving two locations for such discussion).

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  42. Adding to my comment @41, what might be even better is if Barry Brooks and Dana(?) cowrote an introduction to the topic covering the areas of agreement with each then writing a seperate continuation arguing their respective points of view (ie, that nuclear must be a substantial part of a zero carbon energy mix for Brooks; and that nuclear a zero carbon energy mix can be achieved, and should be achieved with no new construction of nuclear power plants - which I take it is Dana's position.

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  43. Tom,

    I have not been impressed with the material on Brave New Climate in the past. 

    That said, if SkS had any nuclear thread everyone could post links to the data they thought supported their side and it would all be in one place.  Currently we will have to repeat all the posts from the same discussion a month ago again with JvD, since they were posted on a weekly thread and are hard to find (and reargue all the material that JvD posted years ago).  Any nuclear thread would allow the data to be consolidated in one place so that we could refer to that thread for all nuclear questions.  

    I agree that reposting your linked article would be a simple way to get an OP.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] User JvD had been banned for multiple and repetitive violations of this site's Comments Policy, including sloganeering and inflammatory, to name a few.  Since his return in another User ID form (Joris van Dorp) is also a violation (sock puppet), his current User posting rights have been rescinded.

  44. @41 and 42, this all comes under the year 11 economics concepts of the problems to do with government intervention into the market place. The more they intervene the more difficult it is to extract themselves.

     Government Intervention makes the so-called free-market less efficient: thus picking fossil fuels as the 'winner' all those years ago gave it economies of scale and ,as Bill Gates would say, "Automation of an inefficient process simply increases that inefficiency."

     Markets are meant to be robust is another dictum learnt in year 11 economics-> lending the idea that the more governments intervene the harder it is to extract themselves as economies build thmeselves around the initial intervention. If we add the witches wand of Hollywood into the mix we can almost guarantee Americas inability to move away from Nuclear Power due to real-politik which means, of course, it's just not possible from the highest degree of probability at the nuts and bolts level.

     People vote and this too counts as government intervention.. it is of course a chicken and egg thing!

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  45. I worked in nuclear power engineering and construction for several years back in the 1980's. I was flabbergasted at the costs imposed by excessive requirements of the various codes, and positively impressed with the QA processes. But my gut feeling was (and is) that it was the "Operation Independence" pushed by the government (especially President Nixon) to hurriedly build Nuclear, full-speed-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes, that did irrepairable damage. Arrogance resulted. And the cost-plus contracts that rewarded sloppy inefficiency. Also damaging was the attitude that there was so much in way of safety factors, redundancy etc that there could be no problems... and severe problems came along anyway. Yikes!

          Nuclear is a brittle technology. Even so, most problems resulted not from inadequate safety etc factors but from failure to provide for what caused the problems. Like Baldur's mother, told that her son could only be killed by a wood-tipped spear, got him blessed by the spirit of every kind of tree and shrub that grows upon the face of the Earth. So Baldur was killed by the evil Loki with a spear tipped with mistletoe, a parasitic shrub that grows on trees and not on the face of the Earth.

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  46. I  agree with the moderator on jvd particularly noting post 31, thanks Tom, I see Jvd and many other Nuclear exremeists on and it makes it an unpleasant site as they interpret every article and every post on the articles as requiring their strident answer, - I just don't go there anymore.

    Years ago we were talking of virtual power stations, - all forms of generation co-operating to get the best power but focussing on just one prevents that.

    And btw, I notice that wave and tidal generation is making some big strides so will be able to be added to the mix more and more and Tidal is interesting in that it can be predicted thousands of years ahead. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link activated.

  47. JH Apologies for the delay in replying: 

    TomR @5, CBDunkerson @9, Rob Honeycutt @10  I see the confusion this phrase might cause:

    “By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again unless they’re either replacements for old ones or are carbon neutral?

    To be perfectly honest I can't remember why "replacements" is in there — I wrote the original piece nearly a year ago. It has been read by the authors of the paper and many others and this is the first time it's come up.

    I may have meant replacements of existing ones before the projected end of spanlife. i.e. an existing 20 year old coal plant replaced by a more effecient one to complete its end of life of 20 years.

    If that's the case, probably shouldn't have mentioned it. I'd have to re-read the original studies and my mountain of notes to be sure. I don't have time to do that right now.

    But thanks for pointing it and should I do another version I will definitely delete or explain the reference. That said, I think the topic of  carbon commitments is a very important 'story' to tell and needs much broader airing amongst decision makers and the public. 

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  48. Recommended supplementary reading:

    Renewables outpace nuclear in economies making up 45 percent of world population: report by Aaron Sheldrick, Reuters, July 15, 2015

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  49. Thanks Stephen. The 'more efficient replacement' idea seems plausible. The whole 'clean coal via carbon capture' concept often involved the idea of shutting down 'dirty' coal plants to replace them with 'clean' ones... which could, theoretically, mean a decrease in total carbon commitment. Of course, we hear a lot less about this (in the US anyway) now that even the dirtiest, least regulated, coal plants are more expensive than natural gas and sometimes wind/solar.

    That said, I continue to be optimistic that many of the 'carbon commitments' being built today will end up as 'stranded assets' that get shut down early rather than reaching their full 'pollution potential'. Indeed, it seems likely to me that there will never be another new coal plant built in the US... it has just become too obvious that they will not be able to make a profit.

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  50. CBD agree on US coal. As my article notes shutting down stranded assests will require $ compensation. A carbon tax could fund the buy outs unless the pollution tax is very high making it uneconomic. 

    Overall a significant carbon tax would help enormously in reducing amounts of new fossil fuel burning stuff being built. Sadly we need that tax yesterday. 

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