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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #23

Posted on 10 June 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Trump’s Climate-Change Sociopathy 

Trump & Paris Climate Accord

Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement is not just dangerous for the world; it is also sociopathic. Without remorse, Trump is willfully inflicting harm on others. The declaration by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, that Trump believes in climate change makes matters worse, not better. Trump is knowingly and brazenly jeopardizing the planet.

Trump’s announcement was made with a bully’s bravado. A global agreement that is symmetric in all ways, across all countries of the world, is somehow a trick, he huffed, an anti-American plot. The rest of the world has been “laughing at us.”

These ravings are utterly delusional, deeply cynical, or profoundly ignorant. Probably all three. And they should be recognized as such.

Trump’s Climate-Change Sociopathy, Commentary by Jeffry D Sachs*, Project Syndicate, June 7, 2017

*Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. His books include The End of Poverty, Common WealthThe Age of Sustainable Development, and, most recently, Building the New American Economy.


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Comments 51 to 73 out of 73:

  1. Come on guys (and gals)

    I have written hundreds of posts critical of climate sceptics and deniers,  mainly on other websites, often quoting articles from SkSc.

    However even I think you are being a little hard on Too, in part. It's probably climate denier fatigue, these sceptical guys can be very frustrating at times.

    But read what Too has said: He has accepted humans are altering the climate. Maybe its concern trolling but we dont know.

    However he has grumbled about whether there is a "consensus". Well too, there is a consensus, clearly shown in numerous polls, and ultimately while this does not prove a theory is correct, as humans we have to really follow what the majority of scientists are saying as opposed to some eccentric.

    There are two general sides in the debate. Although I dont know where too  is really going with that remark.

    The malthus thing is about definitions, and a more commonsense approach is to accept population increase is a factor and just discuss this.

    Too is right the two sides need to avoid shouting. But he blew this with his condesending remark about calm down. This is exactly the sort of remark which gets my back up and starts  to get personal.

    Too has mainly carried on about renewable energy, and the costs of this. But he has not even remotely proven his case on this. So on his main point he has not persuaded me.

    By the way Too, this website has discussed renewable energy from time to time, but is basically primarily a website about causes of global warming and reasons for scepticism. Its entitled to take this form and I think we need information like that.

    We get a little frustrated with deniers or sceptics or whatever term you prefer, particularly because of all the dodgy cherrypicking ,strawman arguments, lies by ommission, red herrings and sophistry and so we get defensive. We have a right to be a little defensive. Michael Mann gets death threats.

    Of course some warmists can be annoying, but frankly the warmists seem a bit more rational.

    All I ask is for people to be upfront on where they are really going with some post, acknowldege points raised and provide evidence based arguments.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] too has acknowledged that there is a scientific consensus and I think he/she may have implied that they agree with it, but  not sure on that. In early posts, too showed a penchant for rhetoric and sophistry. Provided posts keep that in check and stick to evidence, they should be fine.

  2. Too @ 7
    I agree that something that is half the cost to the current generation and provides twice the benefit for future generations is better. However, as an engineer with and MBA, I understand the fallacy of believing we understand how to technologically manipulate the global environment in a way that is guaranteed to produce a desired result. An Engineering fundamental is that nothing gets produced for public use until thoughtful thorough actual (not artificial) experimentation has been performed to ensure its safety. My MBA courses in Organizational Change made it clear that a desired change cannot be created by implementing a theoretical adjustment on the organization. Implementing changes will result in changes, but because of complexities that are not well understood the actual change is different from what may theoretically be hoped for.
    Massive experiments in imposing changes on the global environment to be performed by future generations at their risk, the sort of irresponsible impositions on Others that the likes of Lomborg try to justify, are extremely dangerous propositions.

    Reducing human impact emissions that are causing change is not the same type of change. Reducing the imposition of such a change to the global environment is “Guaranteed” to reduce the magnitude and uncertainty of the resulting consequences.

    In line with my previous comment, it is not even appropriate to compare the costs for avoiding different levels of temperature increase. Comparisons of different approaches to reducing the total CO2 impact that would achieve the same levels of global impact are valid to determine the more effective options. But trying to justify the creation of a larger future problem because “it would be less expensive for the current generation” cannot be allowed to be considered to be sensible or responsible (and it is worse to claim that the future generations can gamble their futures on massive experiments in global environmental manipulation). That type of thinking can lead to unjustified excusing of less acceptable behaviour because less acceptable behaviour will always be easier, quicker or cheaper even though it causes a bigger problem.
    A justified evaluation would be to determine the level of global temperature increase that would create very little chance of any future costs or challenges to any regions humanity currently has developed in. I am fairly certain that that has been reasonably determined, and we have already likely exceeded that level of temperature increase because of the lack of responsible action by the “Winners” among our predecessors since 1972 (1972 Stockholm Conference made it clear what changes of development direction would be required).

    If we continue to allow “Winning” by people who consider it OK to create costs and challenges for 'Others because the Others have no equity of influence over what is gotten away with, especially future generations' then indeed the matter is a Mathusian one in the sense of the “Less Sensibly/Responsibly Justified More Damaging Winners” encouraging others to compete to be Less Sensibly Responsible and More Damaging (A potential result of the Winners-of-the-moment in the USA excusing themselves from the responsibility to participate in the Paris agreement). The growth of unjustified pursuits of personal interests could indeed destroy humanity, even without population growth.

    Basing “Winning” purely on Popularity and Profitability with everyone “freer to think and do as they please” is indeed a fundamental threat to the future of humanity.

    But humanity has a history of only allowing trouble-makers to go “So Far” before their actions are effectively curtailed. Regrettably, humanity does appear to struggle to retain that learning. It seems to repeatedly have to be relearned. In too many cases the trouble-makers are permitted to go too far because of reluctance or inability to limit the Sovereign Liberty of people or nations (like the recent Sudanese, Bosnia, Rwandan atrocities).

    Supposedly already advanced Nations that did the least improvement of CO2/GDP, CO2/capita since 1972 definitely have a “Disadvantage” today. Claiming the situation they are in, facing more rapid and significant correction of their economic activity (ways of living) than others, as “Unfair” is incredibly unjustified, but understandably popular in the population of such a nation. When G.W. Bush announced that the USA would not ratify Kyoto he declared that Americans did not have to change the way they lived. That “Big Lie” created a delusion among many members of the population, and the current generation in the USA is suffering the consequences. John Stuart Mill (a formative thinker regarding the pursuit of Liberty) would blame the society for failing to properly raise and educate its population. To Quote Mill, “If society lets a considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.” Mill would probably expect international action to attempt to “correct the failing of the USA” so that all of humanity does not fail. Hopefully, thinking like Mills will prevail in the USA before international intervention is required (because history shows that international intervention is usually too late, after significant damage is done).

    It is undeniable that the USA today faces a much larger challenge than it would have to face if the leadership since the 1972 understanding of the Stockholm Conference had done more to encourage responsible development and discourage irresponsible development. But instead of striving to change as much as possible to a sustainable economic path, the USA leadership was influenced into trying to maintain a temporary perception of global competitive superiority by behaving less acceptably than it could have. Currently faced with the reality of the bigger correction of the over-development in the wrong direction, it is understandable why irrational inexcusable unjustified arguing to get away with less acceptable behaviour is popular in the USA population (and other nations). But it is also clear that the population of the USA is justifiably divided on this matter. In spite of some groups “Winning unjustified advantage by deliberately behaving less acceptably” others in the USA (and Canada, and Australia, China, and many other nations) have pursued better behaviour and the development of economic activity that does not face the undeniably dead-end destiny of activity that over-developed in the wrong direction. So the current USA (and many other nations) is understandably divided Good vs. Evil from the perspective of the future of humanity, regardless of attempts to claim that some other Good vs. Evil is more important and get attention misdirected.

    Therefore, to avoid future massive damaging developments the international collective of leaders in business and government have to develop the will to be closely monitored and have quicker action taken to limit the “Winning” by any of “Their Peers” who try to gain advantage from a large portion of the population growing up mere children - selfish/greedy and/or with tribal xenophobic fear based intolerance of “Others”.

    The Paris Agreement has the potential to effectively be that type of international mechanism. That is probably why it is so passionately disliked by many “Intelligent and Knowledgable but Misguiding/Misdirecting” people.

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  3. too

    I find your arguments somewhat baffling.  The bottom line for me is that climate change is happening now, humans are largely responsible, if left unchecked the habitability of the planet will be threatened, and therefore we need to do something about it.

    If everything comes down to cost, well then there is another way to look at it.  Let me quote the eminent scientist Kevin Anderson:  "There is a widespread view that four degrees Celsius [of warming] is incompatible with an organized global community, is beyond adaptation, is devastating to eco-systems, and is unlikely to be stable."  [Reykjavik lecture, February 2016]

    The reference to "unlikely to be stable" means that, if we get to four degrees, it won't stop there but just get worse and worse.

    One needs to reflect on those words.  They paint a pretty scary picture.  A world with no "organized global community"?  How much should humans be willing to pay to avoid such a scenario?

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  4. I should add to my comment @53 that four degrees of warming is of course the typical estimate of where we'll be in 2100 with little, if any, action on climate change.

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  5. Moderator:  Too says @45 "  I do not believe in AGW based upon scientific consensus but rather from the aspect of the Earth essentially being a closed thermodynamic system and thus it is reasonable that significant carbon release into the atmosphere by humans likely has some degree of impact."

    On you other point further above on moderation policy, I accept virtually everything you say. The only quibble I have is crossing out leaves an impression of censorship even though it isn't.  A bold and explicit warning seems enough to me. But I respect you want to go with crossing out, and I do get where you are generally coming from.

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  6. First, thank-you moderators and I wish to clarify my positions for the record.

    1. Do I believe the Earth is warming?: Yes
    2. Do I believe that humans are the likely cause?: Yes
    3. Do I believe that the burning of fossil fuels by humans is the likely cause?: Yes
    4. Do I believe that there is scientific consensus for 3?: Yes
    5. Do I believe that scientific consensus for 3 proves this?: No
    6. Do I believe that proving scientific consensus is the most important thing?: No
    7. Do I believe that actually solving the problem is the most important thing?: Yes
    8. Do I believe that legitimate debate on 3 can exist? No, not really, but I can also understand why some might be skeptical.
    9. Do I believe that legitimate debate can exist on the most efficient and effective means of addressing 3?: Yes
    10. Do I believe that climate change is a Malthusian Catastrophe?: Yes. It is a pet theory of mine. And before I get flogged, while that concept has received wide criticism, that criticism is based upon factors not considered by Malthus that mitigated his conclusion, not the underlying concept, which is obviously true.
    11. Am I a concern troll?: No idea, first time I have heard that term, I do not believe so.

    My concern is a path towards a solution is what is most important. Tom Curtis' generous explanations were very enlightening to me at least. What it said to me is that the economics argument from both sides can be taken as right and wrong simultaneously. It is all dependent upon what factors one considers. If one only considers LCoE then one will come to one conclusion on this. If one considers other factors like the EPA SCC then one will come to a very different conclusion. The link to the paper he supplied actually specified this, they provided an app where one could plug in one's own numbers for various different factors and stated that depending on these factors one will get different results.

    Let me attempt to explain my concerns and this is a bit unconventional. Imagine if a group of individuals came out and said. "In 5 billion years the Earth will expand into a red giant star and destroy all life on Earth. This science is undeniable. Therefore, as our first priority before all other priorities, we must invest trillions of dollars to reduce the amount of hydrogen consumed by the sun. Climate change is trivial compared with the extinction of humanity. Anyone that does not agree 100% with our position is a moron and a Solar Change Denier."

    Now, I don't mean to stereotype, but the members of this community would probably have the following reactions:

    • These guys are utter lunatics
    • You would be angry and become more entrenched in your beliefs

    Here is the issue. There is a large segment of the population that views climate change in exactly the same way as you would view those individuals. These people that I am referring to do not necessarily refute the science but they have other concerns like jobs, paying the bills, etc. that are more important to them than something that is, from their perspective, far, far into the future. That is a huge barrier and problem to actually addressing climate change. If, as is my opinion, the only thing that is important is actually solving the problem then that barrier needs to be addressed. That is what I am concerned with. These people, while they do not necessarily refute the science, if you call them idiots and "Climate Change Deniers" all that is happening is that you are entrenching them in their current beliefs. Thus, it is not only about the science, it is more importantly about this large percentage of the electorate that votes.

    My desire is to learn about all the various sides of this and understand how to make progress on actually solving the problem.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Type the word "communication" in this website's search engine and hit the "Go" button. Then start reading the numerous articles on this topic that have been posted on SkS over the years.

  7. too@56,

    I see the problem as a failure of Leadership in business and government to be responsible adults who use sensible rational consideration of the best understaning of what is going on to help improve the future for all of humanity.

    John Stuart Mill in "On Liberty" presented a good understanding and gave a warning in 1859: “If society lets a considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.”

    The problem today is that many "Mere Children" are being allowed to become leaders of business and be repeatedly elected to government positions.

    Effective communication of climate science is an essential part of correcting the problem. But it is obvious that "All of the Other Responsible Adult Leaders" in business and government need to collectively act in ways that will effectively correct for the regional temporary ability of pursuers of support from easily impressed mere children to Win.

    The majority of the USA population understands that burning of fossil fuels has to be curtailed much more rapidly than the games of popularity and profitability will curtail them. Yet the Leadership of the USA is currently controlled by the opposite type of people.

    More people need to understand that an investment or job that depends on a lack of awareness of its unsustainablility or the damage that it causes is not really a valuable investment or job (regardless of its potential regional temporary popularity and profitability). Those types of investments or jobs have no future, just the potential to over-develop illusions/delusions of prosperity or opportunity. Leaders need to help everyone understand that, or face external actions to change their minds or be remove from their leadership role if they will not 'allow rational consideration of distant motives to be the basis for their thoughts and actions'.

    International sanctions against those types of leaders in business and governments already happen for a variety of other Bad Behavour. It may not be long before that type of effort is used to limit the impacts of Bad Climate Leaders. The Paris Agreement is certainly set up to head in that direction (hence the likes of Team Trump disliking it loudly and passionately in ways that would appeal to other 'grown up mere children')

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  8. Too @56

    Points 1-10, ok fair enough in the main.

    I accepted from the start that you accept the science. However I think you are wrong on costs of renewable energy like wind being too high. Just have another look at all those tables on costs of renewable energy from various sources and think more about all the various factors.

    On the consensus. I would just point out nobody is claiming this "proves" climate change, so its a strawman really to claim this. A consensus just demonstrates a strong majority position that has developed over a decent time period so become very tested (time is important). It's a measure of strength of a theory to some extent. But governments have to respond to issues and one hopes they listen to the consensus position, as opposed to fringe beliefs of the minority, and Im thinking here of climate science, vaccines, flouride etc. Its not always going to be the right choice, but the alternative of listening to eccentrics is crazy. Its worth pointing out climate science has a huge body of research more so than other issues.

    On malthus. His theory was really that exponential human population growth would lead to disaster. He based this on animal populations and the end result of exhausting basic resources, and fouling environments, etc. And it could be a general problem for humanity obviously. Climate change is a little different, because we are not exhausting a resource as we have a choice between oil and renewable energy. If fusion power works this will never become a mathus type of problem, but other things might.

    So the climate problem has some characteritics of malthus, but I'm not sure its strictly comparable. But reducing rates of population growth will help the climate problem to some extent, and it becomes a question of quantifying this and having a plan. Therefore agonising about the "definition" issue seems odd to me, and calling the climate issue a population problem is certainly deceptive.

    On your solar analogy of the sun eventually changing and obliterating life on earth, this is pretty extreme, because it would never be possible to solve that problem barring some miracle technology in the far future. The climate problem is easier to tackle. But I take your point that people struggle with problems that seem rather distant. In fact I recent research in psychology has found human brains are simply not wired up that well to respond to distant problems, as compared to immediate concerns, and the reasons are obvious, to do with evolution and history and immediate survival. But this varies with different people to some extent.

    So while we conceptualise the future we dont always have the same visceral adrenalin reaction, and powerful motivation that short term threats create.

    Unfortunately a lot of people who have day to day financial challenges and cant see into the future, are also very sceptical about the science, and it becomes inter mingled. It's not possible to simply ignore the way they perceive the science, and it needs to be corrected, but obviously name calling doesn't help.

    One of the main problems is politicians that are strongly driven by ideological modes of thought, and that are captive to business lobby groups and very obsessed with short term interests and immediate goals or pleasures that they have become used to. This is particularly the case in America, so despite the majority wanting more action on climate change, you get a sort of stalemate situation. This is therefore all very much a political problem, and relies on politicans having the courage to take the high ground, and don't hold your breath on that.

    However lack of long term thinking is an issue for many. We have to better develop a longer term perspective that considers something more than tomorrows profit account or bills to pay. These are obviously very important, but with nothing more, humanity is going nowehere and will get into big trouble sooner than we think. As others have pointed out, sustainable development goals are a first step and clearly required to ensure our future over generations. They are a first step that provides a logical and achievable longer term framework, and which could unite people. I sense this is all inevitable anyway, but there are forces trying to obfusticate and delay this process.

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  9. Appreciate the tip [JH]. The efficacy of these discussions, at least in terms of the US, seems...self apparent.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] A look at the average commentators at WUWT or this set of beauties   would suggest attempts at communication with a portion of population is futile.

  10. Too,

    This SkS post discusses Jacobson's plan to use 100% renewable energy to power the entire economy (the entire economy, not just electricity).  He shows this will be cheaper than using fossil fuels.  He shows in other papers that there are enough materials (like steel and rare earth metals) to build out the wind generators and solar panels needed.  He shows in other papers that renewables can generate 100% of all power used as reliably as fossil fuels.  His group gives a lot more data by state (in the USA) and for most other coutries in the world on their web site the solutions project (a good name since you want a solution.  You will have to consider that the cost of wind and solar have decreased dramatically since those papers were written so the cost for Wind and solar will be less than he projects.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Jakobson's group have paper in press discussing path to 100% renewables for 139 countries.

  11. Tom Curtis at 34 and 36,

    While the paper that you linked was recent and detailed, I wonder about many of their conclusions.  

    This table from Lazard (not peer reviewed but up to date)

    table of energy costs(source: CleanTechnica) shows wind and utility solar as cheaper than fossil fuels annd nuclear.

    Westinghouse has declared bankruptcy because of their comittment building the nuclear reactors in the USA and Toshiba looks like it will also go under.  The nuclear builds in Europe are far behind schedule and way over budget also.  In the USA nulcear plants are closing because the O&M costs are more than wind and solar including the mortgage on wind and solar (nuclear has paid off their mortgages).  I wonder how Rhodes et al can find nulcear economic anywhere considering this.

    In their analysis, Rhodes et al used the average wind speed over the entire county to estimate the efficiency of wind power.  In almost all counties there are locations where the wind is much better than the county average so they are strongly underestimating the wind potential (they discusss this problem in their paper).  

    While Rhodes et al have some interesting data, I think their analysis is just a first try.  With more data and analysis their method will probably be useful, but the first pass is incomplete.  

    I am not expert in these matters so perhaps I make a mistake.  Energy analysis are very complicated.  Because Lazard appears to use actual prices and is more up to date, it seems to me that that data is more accurate.  Energy prices change rapidly so data from a few years ago is often not accurate.

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  12. michael sweet @61, Rhodes et al (2017) with regard to solar:

    "Capacity factor values for utility and residential-scale solar PV plants were calculated using the capacity factor maps found in Drury et al. (2013). Because these maps were at a finer granularity than county-level, the average value per county was calculated. Utility-scale PV was assumed to be single-axis tracking and residential PV was assumed to be south-facing fixed-tilt at the local latitude (see Figs. 46, 47). Capacity factor values for solar CSP were calculated using NREL's System Advisory Model (SAM) (NREL, 2015). Weather data from over 1000 locations across the US were used with the SAM model of a generic concentrating solar plant with 6 h of thermal energy storage. The resulting capacity factors for the plants were then used to give each county in the US a CSP capacity factor based on similar meteorological conditions (Fig. 48)."

    That is, with respect to each county, they used average insolation and meteorological data for that county to determine solar capacity.  In contrast, Lazard (2016) state, with regard to solar:

    "Low end represents single-axis tracking system. High end represents fixed-tilt design. Assumes 30 MW system in a high insolation jurisdiction (e.g., Southwest U.S.). Does not account for differences in heat coefficients within technologies, balance-of-system costs or other potential factors which may differ across select solar technologies or more specific geographies."

    That is, they assume the best case regional insolation available within the US across the entire US, making their solar costs to those in low insolation, high cloud regions equivalent to those in high insolation, low cloud regions. 

    Rhodes et al state with regard to wind:

    " Capacity factor values for on-shore wind were obtained from 3Tier at a 5 km×5 km resolution (3Tier, 2015) and were averaged at the county level. Wind capacity factors would be higher and thus the LCOE lower if the best locations in each county (rather than merely average conditions) were chosen for siting the wind turbine.  The capacity factor values were for a generic turbine with a hub height of 80 m (Fig. 45)."

    That is, they use the average wind speed across specific counties rather than for the entire country.  Lazard does not give that information, but are likely to have followed their practise with solar, by using the best case region for determining costs across the US.  Lazard also do not give information on tower height, with increased tower height reducing costs.

    With regard to these methodological choices, it is not the case that each county in the US generates its own power.  With a sufficient distribution system, it would make sense for nearly all utility solar in the USA to be located in the SW, and even more sense for a substantial portion to be located in Mexico.  It would similarly make sense for onshore wind to be located in the mid-west which has the highest wind capacity factors.  Rhodes et al, however, adress the issue of more local generation forced on suppliers by current distribution capacity and state based marketing regulations.  It also provides information as to the best location of energy sources within a national distribution grid, if such should be sufficiently developed.

    With regard to nuclear, Lazard states:

    "Key sensitivities examined included fuel costs and tax subsidies.  Other factors would also have a potentially significant effect on the results contained herein, but have not been examined in the scope of this current analysis.  These additional factors, among others, could include: capacity value vs. energy value; stranded costs related to distributed generation or otherwise; network upgrade, transmission or congestion costs; integration costs; and costs of complying with various environmental regulations (e.g., carbon emissions offsets, emissions control systems).  The analysis also does not address potential social and environmental externalities, including, for example, the social costs and rate consequences for those who cannot afford distribution generation solutions, as well as the long-term residual and societal consequences of various conventional generation technologies that are difficult to measure (e.g., nuclear waste disposal, environmental impacts, etc.)."

    Given that the US already has several operating nuclear plants, not taking into account the cost of stranded assets will inflate the relative cost of no longer using nuclear power.  I think you will find that Rhodes et al only show nuclear as being the cheapest option where such nuclear power plants are already operational, and not always there.

    For what it is worth, Rhodes et al show levelized costs by county showing, Min-Max, (Mean) in dollars per MWh as:

    Nuclear: 120-190 (124)

    NG (Combined Cycle): 40-230 (111)

    Onshore Wind: 40-1090 (155)

    Solar PV (Utility): 90-270 (199)

    The the low end county costs are therefore commensurate with those from Lazard, consistent with their different methodologies.  The exception is for Solar PV, where the difference may be due to Rhodes et al using a 2013 paper for information on county level capacity factors.

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  13. too @56

    I got no further than your point (5).  Fossil fuels contribute about two-thirds of warming.  The consensus on this is based on hard data.  In essence, the ratio of atmospheric carbon 13 to carbon 12 is decreasing.  For the full story behind this you'll find an article on the topic at RealClimate.org.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] read it carefully. I am not aware of anyone seriously considering that "consensus" = "proof". Proof belongs in maths not science.

  14. too @56.
    The position you set out for yourself is in part difficult to grasp.

    Your third point seems to be saying that you have doubts about AGW. The IPCC use of the word "likely" to mean 66% to 100% certain and “very likely” to mean 90% to 100%. Is it thus correct to consider your doubts as being 33% to 10% (ie no-less-than-10% as you appear unable to sign up to “very likely”)?
    With this in mind, my own position would be that AGW is “virtually certain” and I consider the UN IPCC rather pulls its punches when it sets out its assessment by stating “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (that is 95%-100% certain) and that “Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is … likely to exceed 2°C for ... RCP8.5." (ie RCP8.5 = unmitigated BAU).

    At your fourth point, you say the scientific consensus on AGW refers to your Point 3. Are you saying the scientific consensus applies only to AGW being “likely”? And then at your fifth point you say you don't see the scientific consensus on the likely-or-actual existence of AGW “proves this”. What is the “this” you refer to?

    Unlike Digby Scorgie @63, I will venture beyond point 5 (but unlike nigelj @58, not beyond point 9).

    Your sixth & seventh points are a matched pair. Obviously it would be a tiny bit lacking to prove some great calamity is about to occur if that knowledge is not used to prevent the calamity in some way. I would suggest that it is questionable whether it is useful to consider there being a 'solution' to AGW. Surely it is more a matter of how much AGW is sensibly acceptable and how much sensibly preventable.
    Your eighth point is entirely controversial. You are saying that you do not truly believe that a debate on the likelihood of AGW being the result of CO2 is “legitimate”. Do you then consider the work of the UN IPCC and its attribution of climate change quoted above to be “illegitimate”? Perhaps you need to chose a different word.

    This leads to your ninth point where you believe that it is “legitimate” to debate policy response to AGW even when there is evidently significant dispute that AGW even exists! How can such debate not become bogged down in the dispute over the exisetence of AGW?

    I would add that the [PS] Response @50 strongly asserts that there are “two sides” with a policy debate. I would agree. The Paris agreement had/has “sides” which could be divided into “two”. The UK Climate Change Act 2008 has “sides”. An individual country could be seen as having “sides” in AGW policy debates. And within the IPCC process there are also discernable “sides”. But to ascribe the confusion of all national and international policy decisions/non-decisions as collectively having “sides” is many steps too far for me.

    That said, there exists in particular circumstances “sides” whose positions and  whose impact on policymaking is worthy of discussion, but such discussion would require an understanding of where you are coming from. As I set out here, that is not yet nearly clear enough.

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  15. An added comment on too's points 4-5:

    Research pretty clearly shows that consensus is important relative to the general public accepting climate change. Consensus isn't used to prove anything scientifically. Consensus is a way for non-experts to evaluate what is most likely to be correct and accurate. 

    No one expects anything to be proved by consensus. Consensus is a result not a method.

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  16. Tom Curtis@30, Eclectic@31,

    (sorry for late reply, my workweek was busy)

    My skepticism about large scale projects concentrating the renewable power into high energy, together with long distance transmition infrastructure is high, utopian cost. The process of concentrating many small, intermittent, low energy sources into a reliable and sizeable commercial supply (of an order 100s MW) is by itself very difficult without buffering storage of adequate capacity and time. In case of solar source, that time is at least a daily cycle. Then, on top of that, the lengths of the interstate transmition increase as the sources in entire regions/states stop producing completely due to meteorological conditions (such as a recent freak overnight storm in SA) and the entire load must be transfered from other state. The transmition costs owithin such model grows exponentially with its size. You don't need to be an expert in technology to understand, in a philosofical sense, that concentrating a number of small energy sources (higher enthropy) into a single high energy (lower entropy) "super-grid" is a process going against a natural entropy flow, whereas existing electricity distribution models go with a natural entropy flow. So the cost of a new model implementation must be much higher.

    IMO, much more realistic is a distributed model where electricity is consummed as close to the source as possible, with high capacity storage and some transmition that balances intermittence within a given region only, e.g. when broken clouds or local storm overshadows PV panels in a given suburb. Anything on a scale of Desertec project rfered to by Tom is unfeasible.

    With regards to Desertec, in was conceived in 2007-8, and the Tom's link is dated June 22nd, 2009: a time when its plans were very operational. Fast forward just 5 years till 2013, and Desertec abandons Sahara dream due to its utopian costs. Now, were in 2017, and no comparable alternative project is beeing considered (it should be given AGW solution becomes most urgent) so the idea is pretty much dead. Some say, as noticed by Nigel elsewhere, there were huge political obstacles with host nations. But I even disregard those obstacles (biggesr obstacle in general is outright science denial by white nations' politicians) and think technical obstacles may heve been decisive.

    High-voltage direct current transmission technology has its disadvantages, and above all its limits. Disadvantages include difficulty in AC/DC conversion and higher cost of safety and maintenance. In particular High-voltage DC circuit breaker is expensive and difficult to build. Those problems limit the practical length and power capacity of existing HVDC lines to 1000km/couple GW. To have the entire Europe's electric power (400GW) delivered from 2000-3000km Sahara increases the scale of the enterprise by 1000times. And don't forget that energy losses in trnsmission increase with a square of power. Even the Ohm law becomes the hard limit on such scale.

    For example, 400GW delivered by say 1MV line means 400kA current. Standard 2cm aluminum wire has resistance of 50 microOhm/m. But say a thicker (harder to deploy and support) 5cm cable, resistance 10microOhm/m be used. The power loss by Ohm alone is I2*R = 400kA*400kA*10microOhm = 160,000M*10microW = absurd 1,600,000W per each metre of cable. Of course no one is going to use just one cable, but even if you repeat the above calculation for 10 cables, each carrying its share of 40kA, you end up with enormous power loss of 40*40*10 = 16,000W per metre each. To be realistic you need to have say 100 lines, 4GW each, which is 4kA per line, with Ohm losses just 4*4*10 = 160W per metre. That's just the hard physical limit. There are other limits like corona discharge, arcing on insulators or dialectric leakage in case of underwater cable, that also add to the heat production and stress on the cable material itself.

    From my calculations above, it'll clear that concentrating and long distance transmitting the renewable energy is an expensive business that quickly becomes too expensive and scaling it even higher to the point of Desertec level becomes utopia.

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  17. Chriskoz @66 , I am sure you are quite right about super-colossal solar energy collectors transmitting over very large distances.  My impression was that Tom Curtis was primarily demonstrating the solar collection area needed for national-level electric power generation, as being a small area really (when set against continental size).  "Relatively" small projects, delivering to a city 100 or 200 Km away, might be practicable with today's technology.  But colossal projects might be the go, if future-tech superconduction at hot temperatures ever becomes possible — but by that time, it's more likely that local collection of solar power from rooves/walls/roads/etc will be the preferred option (not to mention small-scale fusion generation! ).

    Still, we cannot live in the maybe-future.  Present-day technology is at the stage where (politics permitting) coal-fired plants can be phased out quickly, and gas-fired plants following soon after.

    As you say, Chriskoz, a distributed/dispersed power generation system is not only possible, but very desirable also from the perspective of high resilience against terrorist attacks & natural disasters.

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  18. chriskoz @66, in reverse order:

    1)  Your estimated 160 W/meter with 100 lines represents a total loss of 160 MW over 1000 Km, or 0.04% of the total 400 GW at the point of origin.  Even the 16,000 W/m estimated with 10 lines, ie, 16 GW over the 1000 Km represents just 4% of the 400 GW at origin.  Both estimates are well below the 10% loss per 1000 Km from Desertec.  Therefore I do not see how your calculations show the project to be implausible.

    2)  Desertec and Dii still exist (the later's most recent function being on the first and second of this month).  What has changed is their strategy.  Because Europe already has an abundance of electricity supply, they changed from a strategy which prioritized delivering energy to Europe first, to one that prioritizes delivering energy in North Africa and the Middle East, with the idea that overtime interconnections with Europe will be established allowing desert solar to provide an increasing share of Europe's power.

    3)  The solar resource varies substantially by location.  Indeed, the difference between the solar resource in the North Sahara to that in France is approximately a factor of 2.  In Germany or Britain, the solar resource is approximately a third of that in North Africa:

    This is an annual average, so the problem will typically be even worse in winter.  Put another way, solar energy is generated 45% less efficiently in France than it would be if generated in the North Sahara and delivered over high voltage DC lines, allowing for both the difference in solar resource and transmission losses.

    Further, purely regional grids must relly heavilly on storage, probably battery storage to allow regular power delivery.  Storage increases costs by 50-80% for eight hour capability (Lazard 2016).  As the best strategy will come down to costs, the costs of transmission lines will have to be greater than the costs of 400 GW of solar generation for local solar plus storage to be competitive with desert solar in Europe.  Based on Lazard's LCOE for thin film photovoltaic (the cheapest form of solar), and this estimate of costs of transmission by distance, the cost of generation is much greater.

    (Cost is in millions of USD for 2000 MW line.)

    4)  Costs for transmission would increase linearly with distance, not exponentially.  Increasing interconnectivity within an area will increase costs at less than the rate of increase of area covered.

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  19. Regarding 'desertec', I just wonder if the issue is really about the technology as such. I respect the various comments, for and against this and power losses and its rather intereresting.

    I think its really about relying on such a single huge centralised facility and single cable network. This would go for any type of very centalised facility.

    1) Yes the Sahara has incredibe sunlight hours and clouds rarely form because they can't, but it does get about 1 inch of rain a  year, usually torrential. One giant facility would still be offline for a few hours, and so would be particularly reliant on rather expensive and huge backup, unless people have to live with a few power cuts.

    2) Desertec is such huge reliance on one single facility, or group of facilities and, one gigantic cable network. This cable would become a huge target for terrorism, unless it was buried underground at enormous cost, and this creates other problems.

    Yes all systems can fail but having such a large system fail even if only a few hours would be a special kind of problem

    You probably need several desertecs spread, with their own cable networks.

    The ideal is solar on peoples roof tops, but this is reliant on breakthrough battery technology. You smart fellows want to be wealthy and earn a nobel prize, get into that.

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  20. Ah sorry Tom Curtis, I see you addressed some of that earlier above. Thank's by the way.

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  21. nigelj @69, Desertec's proposal isn't for a single large facility in the middle of the Sahara, but for a large number of smaller facilities within the Sahara and parts of the Middle East.  That would be desirable if for no other reason than to extend the longitudinal extent of power production to minimize the need for storage.  The image I showed @28 above merely illustrates the proportion of the Sahara that would be needed to generate the relevant amounts of power, not a proposed site.

    Desertec provided this schematic of likely locations of sites:

    The idea would be a band of solar power sites across the Sahara just south of the Mediterainian, supplmented by a another band of fewer sites just north of the Sahel.  That would give mimimum typical transmission distances to Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also give some latitudinal extent to avoid the impact of localized weather systems.

    Dii shows this map of current Dii projects:

    Their full 2012 proposal is here.

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  22. Tom Curtis @71, thanks I will read that later this week as its quite long.

    It's a much more plausible looking proposal. It will come down to costs and benefits.

    Everyone is looking for magic bullets, but there aren't any, just various options that might work for some countries and not others. The EU has a common policy on many things, so should be able to coordinate over electricity, and as spain and northern africa suit solar so well, its the obvious thing. It really just depends on how all costs stack up, and that is a huge calculation. But sunlight intensity, consistency and hours are so good in the Sahara its a big plus that could outweigh the cable costs.

    We are the opposite in my country, and have cloudy weather and are too far from any desert, but have great wind resources and geothermal.

    I think humanity is so used to traditional forms of energy, it's a big mindset change and confidence thing and this is probably more of an impediment than the actual technical issues. Unfortunately we are also becoming more reliant on electricity than ever, so this has come at a difficult time. 

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  23. Tom Curtis@68,

    The limitting factor of Ohm law in DC transmission is not the percentage of resistance Ohm losses in proportion to the transmitted power but the temperature rise of the conductors that results from the Ohm losses. It thought it was obvious in my previous post, that my examplary Ohm loss of 16,000 W/m was enormous and unrealistic. If not, I restate it here with an assertion that this Ohm loss does not magically "disapppear" into oblivion (as, incidentally FF interest groups would like them to "disappear" after burning into "trace gas only"), but must be dissipated as heat. So, imagine each metre of your transmission line becomes 16kW heater which is a very accurate model, what happens? The wire simply melts away. My lowest estimate (160 W/meter) that I deemed realistic will still rise the conductor T but likely not to the point of damage because such amount of heat can dissipate without signifficant rise in conductor temperature. The standards for maximum conductor temperature in emergency operation (up to 2h surge) is something like 90degC, while it must be even lower in continuous operation.

    Ohm losses are not the only losses in transmission. And those that I described in my examples are absolute physical limits. Practical losses will be higher due to menioned increase in T, ergo increase in conductor resistance. Ohm limits the amperage of your cable, to the practical limit of couple kA. Other losses like corona discharge limits the voltage of your line, current highest is 1.2MV. You can try to build higher towers/bigger insulators but only up to a point. The cable cannot be too thick (in my examples I used 5cm but 2cm is more realistic standard for aerial cables) because your tower would fall down under the weight and force of the stung up heavy cable.

    To see the practical limits of HVDC transmission in play look at its records here. Remember, each record is achieved by itself at the cost of lower than optimal (not shown in this Wiki summary) other parameters of the line. Now Desertec (or Dii as it's now known) wants to beat all of those records, including voltage and distance in one mega-project. The fact they failed confirms my opinion they wanted to build something too big that exceeds the limits of available technology.

    In your responses to me and Nigel, you're quoting their plans from 2012 at the latest, while I provided the link from 2013 explaining what happened:

    Siemens pulled out of the venture in November last year. In the same month, Dii failed to get the support of the financially-strapped Spanish government for a 500MW CSP demonstration project in Ouarzazate, Morocco, though the project is still going ahead.

    So it's worth quoting the the explanation form the head of Energy Policy in Spain. She said:

    At a very basic level, we are still missing lines and capacities for export, Spain is already struggling with its own excess renewables production – additional imports from third countries would certainly compound the problem,” she added. “It is difficult to argue that the EU needs the additional RES capacity,”

    In other words, the load balancing of local network with intermittent renewables is already a big problem, without dealing with concentrated energy transmission, which confirms my opinion. You are better off by producing and consuming your RES locally. Maybe "locally" means within EU itself with distances within the limits of current transmission technology. Maybe she would like Spain (where there is still plenty of sun) to become the "Sahara" of that project so that she be happy with production and export only (like I'm happy with my rooftop PV that need zero maintanance) and do not deal with complex logistics of transmission and load balancing of intermittent source.

    Dii is currently thinking its network can power African and Middle-Eastern nations, which is more realistic as transmission distances are shorter. Perhaps it did not abandon its dream of powering Europe from Sahara, but s of now, it is only a dream.

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