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New study finds that climate change costs will hit Trump country hardest

Posted on 24 August 2017 by John Abraham

Humans are causing Earth’s climate to change. We know that. We’ve known it for decades. Okay so what? The follow-up questions should be directed to what the effects of warming will be. What will the costs be to society, to the natural biosystem, and to human lives? Let’s be honest, if the consequences of warming are not large, then who cares? But, if the consequences are severe, then we should take action now to reduce the warming. This really comes down to costs and benefits. Are the benefits of reducing emissions greater or less than the costs? 

But there is a nuance to the answer. The costs are not uniformly distributed. Some regions will suffer more and other regions will suffer less. In fact, some regions will actually benefit in a warming climate. We understand that the world is interconnected and costs will inevitably be shared to some extent. But it is clear we won’t all suffer the same. 

It is also clear that the natural biosystems won’t suffer the same. Some areas are more susceptible to climate change, others less so. Coastal areas and tropical areas are great examples. We know that sea level rise and ocean acidification will impact coastal regions much more than where I live (Minnesota, USA). But tropical zones that experience a very small climate variation throughout the year (there is no winter, for instance, in the tropics) have biosystems that have evolved to survive in very tight climate ranges. The plants and animals just are not used to systematic changes to the climate.

In my opinion, the most interesting research deals with answering just these questions. 

Fortunately, a really important paper just came out in Science titled Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States. Granted, this paper focused on the United States, but the analysis method and lessons can be applied elsewhere.

So what did they find? First, even in a single country like the United States, the losses will be very uneven. In general, the more southern states will suffer most. In the figure below, counties are colored by economic consequences from climate change under a business as usual scenario. The time period associated with the image is 2080–2099. Yellow, orange and red colors correspond to climate costs. Green colors are areas where climate change benefits will be seen.

costs map

Local economic costs/benefits from climate change under business as usual scenario by the years 2080–2099. Illustration: Hsiang et al. (2017), Science.

There are a few takeaway messages. First, the color scale is not symmetric – that is the orange and red values represent pretty large economic losses whereas the green values are notably smaller economic benefits. Secondly, there are more regions that will lose than there are that will win. When interpreting an image like this, we have to be cognizant of the fact that more people live in the Southeast than in the central west. Robert Kopp, one of the authors of the study stated in a press release:

In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities. Increasingly extreme heat will drive up violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people’s lives. 

This conclusion was echoed by Solomon Hsiang, the lead author:

Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States. If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history

In fact, the authors calculate that the end-of-century temperatures will lead to costs on par with the Great Recession (a recession that will be permanent). 

But there is a silver lining that emerges from this study. It helps us plan. By identifying and quantifying the impacts, we can begin to create a social system and even biosystems that are more resilient. Thinking about creation of infrastructure that can withstand flooding along rivers and coasts, developing agricultural methods that are more resilient to heat and droughts, investing in technologies that reduce thermal stresses on humans and animals, reforesting both urban and rural regions to lower local temperatures, etc. The list goes on and on. There are things we can do right now to help our fortunes in the future.

Something should be said about how this study was completed.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 51 to 88 out of 88:

  1. michael sweet

    Although I do not have the book the citation for the study by the German scientists should be in the Smil book Power Density.

    "In Power Density, Smil points to a study of EROEI published in 2013 by a team of German scientists who calculated that solar power and biomass have EROEIs of just 3.9 and 3.5, respectively, compared with 30 for coal and 75 for nuclear power. The researchers also concluded that for high-energy societies, such as Germany and the United States, energy sources with EROEIs of less than seven are not economically viable."

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  2. NorrisM2%1,

    Thankyou for providing more proof that 'unsustainable pursuits of benefit that create no lasting benefit for future generations, or produce levels of future benefit that are less than the challenges and costs that are potentially created, clearly should not be allowed to compete for popularity and profitability (evaluated from the perspective of future generations where the potential costs they face are not discounted relative to any legacy benefit they can be quite certain to obtain)'.

    Using EROEI's that ignore or discount the future costs create poor excuses to not behave better. Unless you can show me proven ways to fully neutralize nuclear waste, the waste is an infinite cost in a 'pursuit of a sustainable future for humanity' EROEI. And future costs need to be compared to future benefits to ensure a net-benefit, none of the game of claiming the future costs are less than current benefits so it is All Right (and certainly no discounting of those future costs for such a comparison). So for actions like coal burning there would need to be proof of the value of benefit into the future, and proof that the almost certain future benefit value (no big maybes allowed to be counted) more than offsets the potential costs created in the future by actions like burning coal today (not just some selected "known" costs like building sea walls only for the rich people's cities, and only building them high enough to only address a portion of future sea level rise - a serious, and easy to see as a poor excuse, flaw in Lomborg's "Cool It" evaluations - an even poorer excuse if those future costs are discounted).

    That was my point in earlier posts. Things need to change so that only understood to be sustainable pursuits are allowed to compete for popularity and profitability. Allowing less acceptable activity to compete gives those activities competitive advantages over the alternatives that are sustainable. Regulation and Carbon Fees help, but attitudes are what have to be changed.

    Striving to maintain incorrectly developed perceptions of prosperity is admirable, but only if they are maintained by a rapid correction of developed unsustainable activity.

    The supposedly most advanced (prosperous/wealthy) people, societies, and economies really need to start proving they deserve to be perceived as the most advanced.

    I look for Proof with Good Reason. I see lots of Poor Excuses - not just related to the changes of human activity required because of climate science.

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  3. NorrisM @51,

    Your reference to "German scientists" is here - Weißbach et al (2013) 'Energy intensities, EROIs, and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants.'

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  4. nigelj

    Does this not come down to Lomborg's principal thesis that per energy unit there will be a massive cost switching from fossil fuels to wind and solar that may not be the most efficient way of dealing with the impacts?  It hardly seems arguing that if you have energy densities like those suggested by the German scientists' study referenced in Smil's book Power Density that the cost of producing an energy unit from wind or solar has to be much greater.   

    michael sweet,

    I clearly acknowledge that the disposal of nuclear waste is something that has to be addressed.  The US did have a plan which got derailed because of politics.  But look at what Shellenberg has to say about the total waste contributed in volume between nuclear power and wind and solar power:

    "Renewables also require far more land and materials than nuclear power. California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant produces 14 times as much electricity annually as the state’s massive Topaz Solar Farm and yet requires just 15 percent as much land. Since those vast fields of panels and mirrors eventually turn into waste products, solar power creates 300 times as much toxic waste per unit of energy produced as does nuclear power. For example, imagine that each year for the next 25 years (the average life span of a solar panel), solar and nuclear power both produced the same amount of electricity that nuclear power produced in 2016. If you then stacked their respective waste products on two football fields, the nuclear waste would reach some 170 feet, a little less than the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, whereas the solar waste would reach over 52,000 feet, nearly twice the height of Mount Everest."

    I obviously cannot back up these statements with research but if each person on this website had to do that each time then this website would solely  consist of experts.  I do not think that is the purpose of it.  It is to communicate to the public.

    How do you ship wind turbines economically to developing countries?  

    But is this not just avoiding the question of what is the ultimate cost of disposing of these wind turbines and solar panels in 25 years when they have come to the end of their useful life?  Do you just leave them in developing countries where they are not seen?  Back to Kevin Costner's Waterworld.

    As for your comment on nuclear power, another part of this article refers to a new type of nuclear power plant which is much less costly:

    "But a comprehensive study of nuclear power plant construction costs published in Energy Policy last year found that water-cooled nuclear reactors (which are far less expensive than non-water-cooled designs) are already cheap enough to quickly replace fossil fuel power plants."

    Trump has specifically referenced a reconsideration of nuclear power so I do not think the bankruptcy of Westinghouse means the end of a nuclear power discussion in the US.

    In about 2011, after first recommending a world carbon fee here is the second recommendation of James Hansen:

     " Second, the United States and China should agree to cooperate in rapid deployment to scale in China of advanced, safe nuclear power for peaceful purposes, specifically to provide clean electricity replacing aging and planned coal-fired power plants, as well as averting the need for extensive planned coal gasification in China, the most carbon-intensive source of electricity. China has an urgent need to reduce air pollution and recognizes that renewable energies cannot rapidly provide needed base-load electricity at large scale. The sheer size of China's electricity needs demands massive mobilization to construct modern, safe nuclear power plants, educate more nuclear scientists and engineers, and train operators of the power plants."

    Is this not a recognition that the problem of coal plants in China is insurmountable without turning to nuclear power?  I know you will say it is all different since 2011.  I appreciate that China signed the Paris Agreement but I highly doubt that the cost analysis has so massively changed since 2011.

    Where is the IPCC on the costs of conversion to wind and solar?  Do they even consider nuclear power?  One of the main criticisms of James Hansen for a solution solely based on renewables is that you have to have natural gas generating plants as a back up when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow.

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  5. NorrisM @54

    "Does this not come down to Lomborg's principal thesis that per energy unit there will be a massive cost switching from fossil fuels to wind and solar that may not be the most efficient way of dealing with the impacts?

    Of course it revolves aroung Lombergs views,  and his thesis has not been accepted by his peers. Its his "opinion" and its wrong.

    I have already shown you in another post above that the costs of switching from fossil fuels to renewables are not massive. The use of the word massive is hyperbole and emotive.

    Numerous studies going back to the stern report have found the best way to address climate change is renewable energy. Lombergs alternative views are not accepted and this has been stated in various links given to you already.

    And do you think you can give me a straight answer to this: Why do you give credibility to a man whos book The Sceptical Environmentalist given it was found to be scientifically dishonest? You can find an account of this and source documentation under Lombergs wikipedia profile.

    "It hardly seems arguing that if you have energy densities like those suggested by the German scientists' study referenced in Smil's book Power Density that the cost of producing an energy unit from wind or solar has to be much greater."

    Stop talking theory and speculation. With respect just stop. Wind power is already one of the cheapest forms of electricity right now in America. This is the real world evidence. Just look up cost of electricity by source on wikipedia. Or read the articles below:


    I can list 100 similar evaluations. Do a google search yourself. If you are not prepared to look at real world evidence, then you make your views redundant. You are a lawyer arent you? Dont you people look at evidence any more? When did that all change?

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  6. Norris M @54

    Shellenbergs views on waste from wind and nuclear power are just so badly informed. This is perhaps not surprising as they man is an anthropologist not an engineer.

    It doesn't matter how much land wind farms use as the space between towers is used for farming and livestock etc.

    The towers are made from metals like aluminium and steel just like many other human constructions that are eventually demolished. These things are recycled and reused.

    The more toxic elements have to be handled with care, I agree with you on that, but they do not present the same challenges as nuclear waste.

    I'm not as adamantly opposed to nuclear power as some people, but the generators are not choosing it. Are you suggesting it be forced on them?

    The regulatory approvals make it all a time consuming and frustrating thing, but we are stuck with this because we certainly do not want short cuts in nuclear safety either! That would be pure idiocy.

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  7. NorrisM,

    The solutions Proect has documented in detail that Renewable energy is the cheapest way to provide all energy in the future.  Here is a summary (on SkS) of their proposal that I wrote.  Claims that renewable energy will be more expensive than fossil fuels are false, they are cheaper.

    Your argument comparing solar panel waste which can all be recycled, with radioactive nuclear waste that has to be sequestered for millions of years is absurd.  I will let other readers decide for themselves what they think.

    Your land area arguments are a red herring.  As NigelJ states, most of the land is farms with occasional wind turbines.  How much land is permanently sequestered by nuclear accidents in Russia and Japan??  Nuclear proponents always seem to forget the nuclear disasters.  Solar farms can be built in deserts or on other low value land (or existing buildings, parking lots and other structures).

    Turbines are sent by ships, just like other cargo.  Currently, old turbines in developed countries are being replaced by upgraded models.  The old turbines are still useful so they are rebuilt and sold as a cheap source of energy to the developing world.  When they reach the end of their lives they will be recycled.  Some people falsely argue that the turbines have worn out.

    Nuclear engineers have been promising cheap reactors since before I was born ("too cheap to meter").  I am 58 now and nuclear is bankrupt.  Your article describes the water cooled reactors that bankrupted Westinghouse.  Engineers describe them as "unbuildable".

    While reading background material on EROEI for solar and wind I found this article.  It responds to an article similar to the one you referenced that MARodgers links above and describes some of the many errors in the analysis.

    Just for starters, the data for solar panels comes from an article written in 2006 (updated in 2007) while the wind power data comes from a masters thesis published in 2004 and a paper from 1998.  These papers are also used in the article I linked above.  I don't know about where you live, but in the USA there have been significant developments in wind and solar since 1998 and 2006.  These data are updated yearly.  I do not know why the authors decided to use ancient data, but for me that disqualifies your reference.  It seems to me that the authors are trying to justify a conclusion, not reach a true answer.  Other readers can make their own judgements.  The article I link calculates an EROEI of above 10 for roof top solar in Switzerland.  Somewhere with better sun (say New Mexico) would have an EROEI of at least 20 for utility farms.  

    As for your excuse for not providing references, if you are too lazy to Google data and read the background you should not post to a forum that requires posters to support their arguments.  It is very time consuming for me to look up data to reply to your idle claims.  If you put in the time to research your claims maybe you would realize that they are specious.

    As I said before, nuclear supporters generally just post reams of false data and do not read the links that are posted in return.  They need to get over it.  Nuclear is bankrupt.  They cannot build a reactor on time and on a budget.  

    Current nuclear plants operation and maintenance alone are more than the total costs of a wind or solar facility including the mortgage for the renewable facility.  Current users in South Carolina pay 25% of their utility bills for nuclear plants that have been abandoned.  They will pay even more in the future as they are stiffed for the capitol costs of the abandoned plants.  Meanwhile wind and solar cause the price of energy to plummet where they are built.

    Lomborg argues that solar is not economic because the price of electricity plummets after solar facilities are built.  The solar facilities are making money and the electricity is cheaper.

    "People like to claim that green energy is already competitive. This is far from true. For instance, when solar energy is produced, it is all produced at the same time — when the sun shines. The energy thus floods the market and becomes less valuable. Models show that when solar makes up 15% of the market, the value of its electricity is halved. In California, when solar reaches 30% of the market, its value drops by more than two-thirds."

    Lomborg is just a shill for the fossil fuel industries.

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  8. nigelj @ 55


    I do believe in evidence and I will take a look at your sources.  Then I assume the reason that James Hansen is behind nuclear power (at least for China and India) is because it is a better base power source than wind or solar.  I assume you agree with Hansen that a change to wind and solar will require coal or natural gas-fired electricity generating plants alongside to provide electricity when wind and solar cannot until significant strides are made in battery storage.  There are many places in the world that do not have access to natural gas.

    I still have my aesthetic problems with massive wind turbines and taking up valuable land for solar (not everyone has deserts) but if you think the cost of energy from solar and wind are the same as fossil fuels then what we are talking about are the infrastructure costs of changing from fossil fuels to wind and solar.

    Do you have any figures on what you would see as a ballpark continuing use of fossil fuels for alternative base power (gas plants and diesel generators) and for other uses such as jet fuel and petrochemicals? 

    In other words, if we assume we are presently at 85% fossil fuels in world energy consumption, assuming the battery storage issue is not solved, where are we as to fossil fuels, solar and wind not in an "ideal" world but at least in one where you think we are doing our best?  My question  assumes that hydroelectric power and nuclear power remain at their existing percentages.

    If you can point me to an estimate of this infrastructure cost that would be helpful.  I assume that the IPCC deals with this in its 2013 assessment.  If you can give me a url lead that would be appreciated.

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  9. IPCC WG3 deals with this. However, you are probably wanting to look at the 2014 special report. Note there are several " grid battery" options, some in use now, including molten salt, compressed air, and pumped hydro. This thread on renewables for base load also has useful references. I have no problem with nuclear power and wish that promising technologies like thorium and IFR would get some investment. However nuclear has major issues with cost and attracting any investment as latest fiasco in US shows.

    Personally I have problems with the aesthetics of major flooding, desertification and lost beaches. Take your pick I guess. Windmills dont kill many people whereas climate change does.

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  10. Norris M @58

    You raise the issues of wind intermittency and solar intermittency. I think the comments and links at 57 and 59 cover this extensively and some of it was new to me. The field is changing fast.

    Just a few comments on it.There are a range of options including gas fired backup (I mention this as my country has over 80% renewables and some gas fired). You dont actually need much backup power for intermittency issues, but its clearly still not ideal and there are other options anyway. 

    Another option is pumped hydro or battery backup.

    Another approach is simpy a mix of renewable options that compliment each other in terms of timing factors. Some storrage and / or backup is still required but not as much.

    Yet another option for a system with considerable wind power is to build a surplus of wind generation. If the winds not blowing somewhere the system has a surplus to take up the slack, and move it around. Its been determined that you mostly don't need a large surplus.

    In fact it varies from country to country obviously, so its hard to generalise. I dont actually like nuclear for reasons others have mentioned, but if a country has poor solar and wind potential it might be pragmatic. 

    You were worried about land area covered in wind and solar. The following maps are based on powering the entire world with renewables with areas needed for generation highlighted, and they are very small.

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  11. michael sweet @ 57

    I do not have the ability to match your research.  One basic question, has James Hansen come around to your view that nuclear power is not a viable option? 

    I will not ask for a simple "yes' or "no" like a litigation lawyer likes to do although I was tempted.

    PS  I find this exchange interesting and educational but if you require all of your posters to provide "peer-reviewed" articles for their replies then you really are wanting to stay in an echo chamber of people who are knowledgeable in the field.  Where is the website for the general public who simply do not have the time or ability to do detailed research?

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  12. scaddenp @ 59

    "Windmills dont kill many people whereas climate change does."

    I wonder whether anyone has asked birds what they think of providing mass windmills around the world to supply energy to humans?

    When you talk of mass deaths, just look at the difference in the loss of life in the US with the Tropical Storm Harvey compared to flooding in Asia.  Technology has massively reduced deaths.  Even in Asia, 1200 deaths is not a massive number.  How many people in the US die each day thanks to guns and cars?  But today, with the Internet everything is magnified. 

    And when we talk of nuclear power, how many people lost their lives or were seriously subsequently impacted by cancer issues from Chernobyl?  How many people died from 3 Mile Island?  In the first case, I suspect not more than 5,000 people, if that.  In the case of 3 Mile Island (better technology than Russia) I think the number is 0.  Same rhetorical questions apply to Fukushima.

    As well, the changes that could be wrought by an increasing world temperature will take years to have an impact.  We are not talking about  tsunamis washing out 100,000s of thousands of people in one fell swoop.

    This catastrophic (apocalyptic) approach turns many people off if only because even in our recent history we have had other predictions of disaster (read Paul Ehrlich) which have not come to pass.  Was he not the one who in the 1970s was willing to take "even money that England will not exist in the year 2000"?  Was it not Nature journal itself in 1975 that was saying that "A recent flurry of papers has provided further evidence for the belief that the Earth is cooling.  There now seems little doubt that changes over the past few years are more than a minor statistical fluctuation."  So much for "peer-reviewed" papers.

    I am not saying that climate change is not being caused by man and that it could not have significant consequences but you have to understand that the general skepticism you see from large parts of the public (especially conservatives)  comes from the old adage, "Once bitten, twice shy".  What happened to the bird flu virus? What happened to the computer scare as to what would happen to all our computers on January 1, 2000?   All of these things were matters to be considered but they were not existential. 

    We are not all going to drown even if the oceans were to rise by 20 feet by 2100 rather than the 1 foot predicted by the IPCC.

    I understand that the scientists want to "scare us" with "tipping points" that I do not believe exist because they want to move us to action.  But when they do this they move out of the realm of science and become politicians themselves.  I understand why they do it but the public generally worries about how unbiased they really are in this area.  Climate science and the economics resulting from the impacts of climate change are complicated and not limited to one field of science.  Koonin in the APS panel was even asking the panelists what areas of science were relevant.  I do not think economics (which I have to admit was my major in my undergraduate degree) should even be called a science.   About the only thing that I really took with me into the business world was the concept of the time value of money (another major (but value-driven) issue when we get into calculating the future costs of climate change).

    Sorry for the digression but I will definitely read the IPCC special report on costs as well as the other references provided by nigelj.

    No need to reply.  I have some reading to do!

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  13. NorrisM @ 62

    Your worries about birds killed by wind power are noble indeed. Do you have the same concerns about birds hunted to death, killed by aircraft strike etc? You didnt mention that.

    You express this point of view that climate change is not so bad because not many people die in hurricanes in America due to technology compared to Asia. What about the effects of climate change on those less technically advanced countries? You clearly dont care too much.

    You pretty much dismiss risks of nuclear power as there have only been a couple of serious accidents. Yet you haven't considered how a world with thousands of reactors would be a much greater risk, especially given the nature of many of those countries.

    You also make note of the fact people hurt from climate change are spread over centuries not swept away within months by some catastrophic event. I can't undertsand how that makes it any better for the people hurt. Again your logic is hard to fathom.

    You note other scares that you claim turned out to be fizzers, or nothing much. But the reason many didn't become disasters is because multiple preventive steps were taken! Eg the bird flu, the ebola scare, y2k, the ozone hole, etc.

    I agree Paul Erlich got some things wrong. One person, no widespread consensus, so your point is what exactly? This is why consensus counts for something.

    Yes scientists said there was cooling in the 1970s, actually because there was cooling in the 1950s - 1970s. However the weight of opinion was it could be temporary.

    You say we won't drown from climate change, a total straw man argument. You lawyers, I mean you have no shame! Sea level rise has huge implications and costs.

    Theres a large peer reviewed literature on the economic costs and general impacts of climate change. Just google the issue.

    You dont believe tipping points exist. Its not a question of 'belief' its about science and it does point at tipping points, and so does the paleo climate historical evidence.

    You say climate science and the economics resulting from the impacts of climate change are complicated and not limited to one field of science. So what? We all know that.

    You rubbish economics, but it is actually a science, and what you say doesn't change that. Its limitations are in predictions, not in quantifiying costs of climate impacts, in fact that's more of an accounting type of exercise.

    All interesting.  Thanks. 

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  14. Windmills kill birds. But not as much as cats or even cell phone towers. And of course if you were really concerned about birds as opposed to visual appeal of windmills, then what about the risk to birds from climate change.

    Of course technology saves lives. Your point? That we cant have technology without FF? That so long as we are saving lives, then it doesnt matter spending trillions on seawalls, levees and cleaning up, rather than decarbonizing?

    I understand that the scientists want to "scare us" with "tipping points" Going to back that claim? Where in IPCC is there tipping points?

    And tsunamis??  Your point is that it doesnt matter if you are killing say a million a year so long as your dont kill people in large numbers at once?

    And as for prediction of cooling the 70s myth. 1975 was year of Broecker landmark global warming paper with its remarkable accurate prediction of the temperature in 2010.

    frankly, a lot of ill informed opinion here,

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  15. NorrisM @62 & prior :

    you may not have noticed it, but your posts have become increasingly absurd.

    When you "make your case" by adducing extreme outliers such as Ehrlich's predictions or (minority) 1970's "Global Cooling" predictions, then you are arguing in a moronic and ridiculous manner.     What next : will you be saying that the case of Galileo shows that all modern science is wrong?     You seem to be too intelligent to be stooping to such illogical nonsense — so please, pull yourself together and "snap out of it". 

    This website is not WattsUpWithThat, where the comments columns typically contain frothing hysteria and the full gamut of logical fallacies (combined with insane Conspiracy Ideation).  Please go to WUWT if you wish to indulge in gutter-level rhetoric & illogicality.

    So, I beg you, please rein yourself in and put aside the disingenuous "concern" & nonsense.     The CO2/AGW situation is clear and straightforward.    "Renewable" electrical power generation [plus or minus the nuclear version] is urgently required to replace all fossil-fuel power generation.     Questions of EROI "efficiency" need to be viewed against the bigger picture — and to make a humorous but true analogy: at a fast cruising speed, a helicopter operates most efficiently cruising at an above-ground altitude of approximately 10 feet.  An efficient choice, but a far from wise one !


    Scaddenp @59 :

    "Personally I have problems with the aesthetics of major flooding, desertification, and lost beaches."

    Thank you for those wise words!  It shows up the absurdity of those Lomborg-like arguments which "cherry-pick" one leaf out of a whole forest.

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  16. NorrisM,

    As an Engineer with an MBA I am absolutely certain that EROEI has very limited relevance to real world considerations.

    EROEI may matter when comparing alternative ways of using a specific source of energy to produce the means to produce more energy. However, it is not relevant to the comparison of different energy sources. And it would not even be the primary consideration for evaluating the aternative ways of producing energy from a source of energy.

    EROEI is a recently developed term. And its use to comparison different sources of energy appears to have been created to try to justify what cannot otherwise be justified. It is similar to the use of measures of Total Wealth or Average Income to declare if a society and its economy are 'improving'. The distribution of the wealth and income and the quality of life experienced by the least fortunate member of the society are more pertinent measures. Trying to get people focused on Totals and Averages obscures things and limits the general understanding of waht is actually going on.

    Ultimately, the sustainability of an economic activity has to be the first consideration. And climate science is adding valuable information and understanding for use in those evaluations of sustainability. Any society or economic system that wants to have a better future with lasting improvement and growth has to focus on ensuring that only truly sustainable activity is allowed to compete for popularity and profitability.

    Major corrections are required,and the socio-economic games that developed them cannot be expected to correct themselves.

    History is full of examples of the damaging consequences for "Others (not the ones who Temporarily get away with Winning the most through the damaging unsustainable pursuits)".

    Climate science, and many other pursuits of increased awareness and better understanding, have been exposing the fatal flaws of the games people play. And many of the Big Winners "Do Not Like It" and don't want the awareness and better understanding to become more popular.

    Back to Lomborg. There is money to be made helping the selfish among the Rich people maintain support for unjustified beliefs and perceptions that they can benefit from. There is not much money to be made, and potential serious negative personal consequences (not just vicious unjustified attacks on a person's character), by people developing and promoting awareness and better understanding that is contrary to the interests of selfish very wealthy people. Lomborg is almost certain to be playing in pursuit of personal gain.

    Disclosuer of personal interests: As a very fortunate resident of Alberta I would personally 'suffer a loss' if Alberta (and the rest of the world) changes in the ways I have mentioned regarding sustainable economic activity based on climate change considerations. I would have less opportunity to make a very high income and I would likely have to pay more taxes to fund a decent social safety net for the less fortunate. But I understand that high incomes related to fossil fuel burning activity is a temporary thing, unsustainable, not able to continue to be enjoyed by future generations in Alberta (with little true future value being cretaed today). I focused on the Responsible Professional Engineering role of ensuring that only 'acceptable options' were included in the comparison of alternative ways of achieving the stated objectives of the projects I was involved in. And as nigelj has mentioned, I had the responsibility to ensure that an unacceptable option was not 'deemed to be made acceptable' by being cheaper or quicker (no matter how much cheaper or quicker the alternative was).

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  17. OPOF @ 66.

    Interesting.  I am also from Alberta and originally was in the oil and gas business as a petroleum landman but only for a couple of years before returning to law school.  Although I have always lived in Vancouver since becoming a lawyer, I have to admit that I also have a continuing connection to the oil and gas business.  But I am 71 years old and I can say that the future of the oil and gas industry in Alberta has a nil effect on my views.  Perhaps my children may have some interest from our investments but not me.

    I very much appreciate the comments above and perhaps as Eclectic has suggested I have strayed from the topics (thanks editor for this stream which is not specifically on causes) but what I am trying to pass on are the views of someone who is a small "c" conservative when it comes to economic issues but is strongly supportive of social legislation which supports those who are not as economically successful (or by pure luck of the draw were not born with as much intellect as others).  I think the disparity of income distribution and wealth in America is a real issue.  For that matter, given gerrymandering in the US, there are serious questions as to whether you can really say there is a true democracy in the US when most positions in the Congress are decided in the primaries.

    In my last posts, I have just been trying to focus on some of the "unspoken" currents that drive conservatives to question both climate change and the future economic effects.  Given that the Republicans do not seem to be going away in the United States, I think it behooves the scientific community to respond to this "red team blue team" approach as a chance to get the message to the US public.  Yes, I know that the IPCC already has this approach but here is the front stage and I hope that this opportunity is not lost by the "majority view" deciding not to participate because it is "below them" to discuss an issue which has already been decided.  The reality is that this is an opportunity to put their case to the American public (we in Canada are kind of irrelevant if we want to be honest about it).

    I have a lot of reading to do from the posts on costs so I plan to sign off for some time other than perhaps reiterating the above point on the new "red team blue team" blog.

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  18. NorrisM

    My apologies if some of my comments have been rather harshly worded. I have been on jury duty all week and a bit stressed,  so you of all people will understand! 

    If you lean moderately conservative then please try to make some of the more strident conservatives see  sense over climate change. I lean mildly liberal, and I dont always accept every liberal viewpoint that comes along.

    There's a place for questions about climate change, but no point spending energy rehashing silly, illogical myths over and over hoping the absurd might be true. Some of your points are good questions but many are rather old myths debunked just so easily.

    The huge tribal divide that has emerged strongly in recent years between democrats and republican politicians is not healthy. Its taking a contest of ideas onto a near war footing. I hate these sorts of divisions at a gut level. It certainly makes logical, workable policy very difficult by effectively neutralising or killing each and every possible idea.

    I live outside America and can see some faults on both sides, but I have to be honest right now the views of the Trump Whitehouse and Republican Congress seem generally the largest political problem.  To use your own example there seems little acknowledgement from  them of the problems of poor people. I take no moral high ground on the issue, rather it just seems prudent to look after all sections of society and help poor people (even if a few arent too deserving at times) to maintain a sense of stability in society and the economy, and minimise rebellion and the election of tyrants and demagogues.

    A similar approach of risk management should be taken to climate change. Humanity has to apply science and logic to the issue and live with the consequences. Energy is energy regardless of where it originates.

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  19. nigelj @ 68

    I completely agree with your comments.  This divide that has opened up between Republicans and Democrats (and the violence we saw in Charlottesville) has the markings of a future civil war.  Maybe that is pushing it but this discussion has found itself into articles in the journal Foreign Affairs.

    What is also troubling is the graph in the Pew Reseach paper showing the relative faith of Americans in their military (79%) compared to their elected officials (27%).  A full 73% of Americans do not trust their politicians.  My understanding from other sources is that one out of 6 Americans would prefer to have the military run their country (in the 90's it was 1 out of 16).  Pretty scary.

    In this environment, it is hard to see how anything can get done on steps to address climate change because whatever one party proposes will be opposed by the other.   

    But without the US onside, I cannot believe that China and the EU would march along knowing that the US is not contributing.  Trying to get the US and other nations to increase their R&D to .05% of their GDP seems a lot more doable than massive infrastructure changes involved with a switch to solar and wind power.  Meanwhile the more progressive states like California etc will press on with their programs which may show the way. 

    I still have a lot of reading to do on the cost references so I will stop "blathering" along (as one commentator has referenced it).

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  20. scaddenp @ 59

    Thanks for the reference to the IPCC WG3 2014 report.  Unlike a number of the url references, it worked.  I have printed off the Summary and will take it home to read this weekend.  A quick look at the graph on page 10 confirms my reference to .4% as the contribution of wind and solar power.  As of 2008, the IPCC shows Wind Energy - .2% and Solar Energy - .1%.  So my reference to .4% may reflect a more recent estimate I pulled from Wikipedia.   If Shellenberg's figure is 1.8% then it obviously has increased from 2008.  I do not know where he obtained that figure.  It still is a massive endeavour to move from .4% or 1.8% to anything like even 50%.

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  21. MA Rodger @ 53

    I was not able to access the German scientists report referenced in Shellenberg's article in Foreign Affairs from the url you provided.  Assuming that he accurately summarized the report it contains this conclusion:

    "The researchers also concluded that for high-energy societies, such as Germany and the United States, energy sources with EROEIs of less than seven are not economically viable."

    If you could provide a better source for accessing this report it would be greatly appreciated.  There are obviously some scientists who have (I assume) published a peer-reviewed paper who do not believe that wind and solar power are viable alternatives for high energy consuming societies like Germany and the US.

    Don't shoot the messenger.  I would just like to understand why they have come to this conclusion and why they are mistaken.   

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  22. NorrisM,

    In my post at 5 7above I said:

    "Just for starters, the data for solar panels comes from an article written in 2006 (updated in 2007) while the wind power data comes from a masters thesis published in 2004 and a paper from 1998. These papers are also used in the article I linked above. I don't know about where you live, but in the USA there have been significant developments in wind and solar since 1998 and 2006. These data are updated yearly. I do not know why the authors decided to use ancient data, but for me that disqualifies your reference. It seems to me that the authors are trying to justify a conclusion, not reach a true answer. Other readers can make their own judgements. The article I link calculates an EROEI of above 10 for roof top solar in Switzerland. Somewhere with better sun (say New Mexico) would have an EROEI of at least 20 for utility farms."

    I accessed the paper using MA Rodgers link.  The german scientists concluded that in 1998 wind had a EROEI of about 3 and in 2005 solar had a EROEI of about 3.  Who cares what the EROEI was 10-20 years ago?  Current data is readily available to determine current EROEI values  The link I provided estimates in 2015 rooftop units in Switzerland have an EROEI above 10.  In sunnier locations, or utility scale, the EROEI would be much higher.

    I do not have time to play these games with you.  I notice that you are very well informed about what is posted on denier sites about remewable energy.

    You have not read either the posts I have made or the references I have given for you that show that renewable energy is much cheaper than fossil fuel for the future.

    It seems to me that you are a concern troll and I try to avoid dealing with people like that.  I note that several other posters have had concerns about your postings.

    DNFTT.  I will no longer post responses to you.

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  23. NorrisM @71.

    I am not sure why you are having a problem with accessing Weißbach et al (2013). It is but a pdf file and the link @53 is functional. And I am not sure why you task me with finding a "a better source for accessing this report," or indeed, why you would think that there is another source available.

    As for the rest of it, the publication of Weißbach et al (2013) does create "some scientists who have (I assume) published a peer-reviewed paper who do not believe that wind and solar power are viable alternatives for high energy consuming societies like Germany and the US" but if you note the journal's webpage for that peer-reviewed paper, you will note the thesis set out by that paper is controversial and contested, indeed rebutted. I will however avoid entangling this comment in that rebuttal by burrowing into that rebuttal.

    The point of your interest with Weißbach et al (2013) is in its finding that "an EROI threshold can be roughly estimated by the ratio of the GDP to the unweighted final energy consumption" which is then calculated very very roughly for USA (& also seperately for Germany) for 2011 as $0.7(GDP)/kWh with electricity costing $0.10/kWh yielding a supposed EROI "threshold" of 7 (for both US & Germany) "assuming OECD-like energy consuming technology" and styling this as "the economic limit." This prompts Michael Shellenberger to state in your reference "The researchers also concluded that for high-energy societies, such as Germany and the United States, energy sources with EROEIs of less than seven are not economically viable." I find this in so many ways extremely silly. Do I need to explain why?

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  24. MA Rodger @ 73

    For some reason I can now access the Weisbach paper.  I will read it before I respond.

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  25. MA Rodger @ 73

    I am working my way through the Weissbach paper.  Using my Latin, I am pretty sure "exenergy" references net energy out.  What I am having trouble understanding is the concept of "primary energy".  I assume this is referencing an "input" energy measurement but I am not clear what it is referring to.  I clearly get the sense that "primary energy" is something that Weissbach thinks is somehow a wrong measurement but I do not understand what he is referring to.

    Could you help me out with this?

    Thanks NM

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  26. One further term I am not clear on is "pump storage".  Does this refer to storage of renewable power by pumping water vertically into a reservoir to be used when needed effectively converting it to hydro power?

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  27. The word I think is "exergy" not "exenergy". In North America, I believe it is more common to call this term "available work". And no, it is not net exergy out. You can think of it as the "quality" of the energy. My favourite picture for understanding it, is think of waterfall. At top of the waterfall you have a lot of potential energy which you could usefully convert into electricity etc. At the bottom of the waterfall, you have same about of energy manifested in heating the pool slightly and a bit sound wave energy. Your ability to get useful work from this however is sharply diminished. You can express this in terms of loss of exergy. Exergy is a 2nd law tool, bound to the change in entropy.

    Because exergy is not conserved, it provides a much better way to study energy efficiency than 1st law method. I use it in thermal power station analysis. The overall efficiency consideration in say a coal station is the "heat rate" - the ratio of power out to fuel in . However, this is no simple relationship between overall efficiency and efficiency of individual components. Another way to do the calculation however is to calculate the exergetic loss from fuel into electricity out. The beauty of this analysis is that sum of exergetic losses of each component (boiler, heaters, turbine etc) is the total exergetic loss. If efficiency drops, you can quickly see which component has had an increase in exergy losses and diagnose the problem.

    And yes, pumped hydro is pumping water back up to the hydro. Note that in systems with a large amount of hydro, (eg NZ), you can use hydro as "battery", without the pumping. When other forms of generation are cheap (wind blowing strong or lots of sun), then hydros stop generating and reservoirs fill. Come night or calm, then hydros switch in.

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  28. scaddenp @ 77

    Thanks. So is "primary energy" the potential energy at the top of the waterfall? 

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  29. Yes. Or the calorific value of the coal. One of the places where "primary energy" is pretty useless is geothermal. The primary energy (at least in common reporting terms) is high but the extractable work is low.

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  30. Scaddenp, that applies to conventional geothermal. Enhanced geothermal is different. 

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  31. NorrisM @78,
    Concerning the definition of Primary Energy, it isn't impossible to consider it to be "the potential energy at the top of the waterfall" or "the calorific value of the coal" but, as scaddemp@79 & Philippe Chantreau@80 well illustrates with the geothermal example, the concept of Primary Energy has to be applied with care when you start using it in ways it wasn't originally intended. Weißbach et al (2013) are in many ways using concepts outside their usual use but as for as using care, that is something Weißbach et al entirely fail to demonstrate. I describe their work up-thread as "in so many ways extremely silly" because of their poor bounding of such concepts as Primary Energy.
    I should say that when I introduced the text of Weißbach et al up thread, I did not expect it to be studied line-by-line. To unpick all their errors and thus grasp fully the task they undertake may not be as intractable as some situations, (☺ they do delve into Schleswig-Holstein, but that is purely for data-gathering ☺) but it is not a task for the faint-hearted. Indeed, it is a challenge even to identify which is the most useful example of their hubris as illustration of the sort of problems there are within Weißbach et al (2013).
    Perhaps it is best to demonstrate how foolish is their main finding, that renewables are rubbish (Wind (E-66) cannot even manage an EROI(buffered) of 4) while traditional power-plants are wonderful (Nuclear (PWR) manages a a splendid EROI of 75 ). In their words "The results show that nuclear, hydro, coal, and natural gas power systems (in this order) are one order of magnitude more effective than photovoltaics and wind power." Does such a finding bear scrutiny?
    I cannot see that it can. Their calculation of EROI only make sense if all your electricity is supplied from a single source 24/7. That is not realistic. So in terms of a real-world electricity supply, the EROI numbers presented are meaningless.
    Even if it were useful considering a single source supply, nuclear would surely need some form of discounted (buffered) value as while wind is highly intermittent at a single-windfarm scale, nuclear is the exact opposite - nuclear is on at full-power 24/365 (and that is pretty-much across all nuclear plant) while demand peaks daily and annually. (We should also note that a load-factors of 23% for 'wind' and 91% for nuclear is seriously taking the mickey.)
    And as the alleged goal is to have an EROI>7 (thus nuclear is not in any way superior to coal simply because it has double the EROI), surely the finding of such a study would not be as in Weißbach et al (2013) that certain technologies were below the "economical limit" (and in saying that you would expect such a limit had been at least roughly established which is not the case), the finding would be what is required to ensure those 'certain' technologies can be established above the limit and what is required to prevent other technologies falling below.

    My advise then would be not to waste your time scrutinising Weißbach et al (2013).

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  32. scaddenp and MA Rodger

    Thanks.  I think "exergy" is really what I remember from science classes as "kinetic energy".

    My sense is that the EROI is just one thing to consider when analyzing alternatives to fossil fuels or the "cost" of moving to wind and solar.  The "buffer" issue is obviously massively important.  Seems EMROI is a more economic term. I see what you mean that nuclear power would require buffering for the same reason as wind and solar but for different reasons.  I would like to know how France dealt with this issue.  I assume that the nuclear power provided the "base load" and left "peak load" to be supplied from other sources.

    My reading of the Summary for Policy Makers of the IPCC WG3 2014 report did not provide a lot of information that policy makers could actually use to implement any policy.  My plan is to read the full IPCC WG 3 2014 report which I assume will have a lot more detail on costs of infrastructure.

    Does anyone have any references to what fairly immediate changes will have to be made to the power grids in large cities of the US to accommodate the increase in EV sales?

    Now that the US has over a 100 years supply of cheap natural gas which puts up about 50% of the pollutants into the air (and no sulphur), it seemed to me that the most logical first step (even if interim) should have been for the US to immediately move from coal to natural gas for electricity power generation.  I appreciate that is what Obama was doing.  Then these power plants could be used as the buffer source for wind and solar if that is where the US public wants to go (as opposed to nuclear). 

    The Pew Research Report referenced earlier clearly shows US public support for wind turbines.  Not my favourite choice but looks like Americans  do not have the same aesthetic concerns that I do.  I guess my numerous times driving the Interstate 10 from LA to Palm Springs (which goes right through a wind mill farm) has impacted me.  We had a family friend with a place in PS but spring breaks with the kids always required the necessary first stop in Disneyland in LA.  It actually would be interesting to have the results of the Pew Research Report for LA alone where the public actually have experienced a wind farm close to them.

    Perhaps SKS should consider adding this topic of "renewable energy costs" to its website rather than having to "key" off of the "Trump country" blog.  Perhaps the "myth" could be that "the costs of change will be massive".

    It seems to me that getting the American public onside with taking action means convincing them that the costs will not be massive compared to those continuing with fossil fuels (leaving aside the other benefits of renewable energy).

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  33. NorrisM

    Here is a link to the SkS article I linked above at 57 on the costs of renewable energy.  It would probably make more sense to discuss the costs of renewable energy on that thread.  Use the search function in the upper corner of your screen to find other SkS threads on renewable energy.  If you read Jacobson's paper he gives a great deal of information on energy and how it might be generated in the future.

    There is not yet a consensus on the best way to switch to all renewables.  Jacobson's articles are the most detailed that I know of but some people think he greatly underestimates the cost of energy storage.  

    The general idea is to rapidly build out wind and solar until they produce most of the power used.  Existing gas plants could be used as back-up as you have suggested during this phase.  All industry and transportation would be switched to electrical power from current fossil fuels.  Once you have enough renewable energy to have excess production some of the time you would start to build out storage.  Jacobson likes hydrogen gas for bulk storage with several other types of storage also used.

    Baseload power plants like coal and nuclear do not back up solar and wind well.  Hydro and gas peaker plants are much better at filling in for peak requirements (or when the wind does not blow enough).

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  34. michael sweet @ 83

    Thanks for the reference to your SkS article.  Just cost me the last hour skimming it.  I have heard of the Jacobsen paper.  I suspect it was highlighted in an issue of National Geographic.  That particular stream seems to have petered out in 2016 but it does make more sense than this one.

    For now I will spend some time reading both what I referenced above and the other information provided in the stream arising out of your post.

    I personally would 100% prefer the risks inherent with nuclear power waste disposal than wind turbines defacing our land but it seems that the costs imposed on nuclear by the regulatory requirments (both cost and time) have effectively killed nuclear power.  It has to be this cost if the Weissbach analysis is anywhere close in its EROI comparisons.  Hansen suggests that France and Sweden converted to nuclear power within 8 years.  I appreciate that was a long time ago but we are talking about the whole country.

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  35. michael sweet,scaddenp and MA Rodger

    I have now read both the Weissbach and Ferroni papers and the responses by Raugei et al as well as one rebuttal by Weissbach.  It gets costly paying for some of these downloads so I have had to restrict myself.

    Would you prefer me to provide my thoughts on the michael sweet SkS article referenced above?  I am still wading through the IPCC 2014 report on costs but the EROI is an interesting place to start.

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  36. NorrisM - sks basically insist that you comment on the appropriate thread and stick to that topic. Comment here have already veered very far the topic of this thread. Regular here read Sks by using the Recent Comment links so changing to a different topic is not a problem. If you like you can comment on the appropriate place and then put a link to that comment here.

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  37. "Scaddenp, that applies to conventional geothermal. Enhanced geothermal is different."

    I dont really follow that. When teasing this out a while ago, I found it partly related to how "primary energy" was defined in a geothermal context (the issue with boundaries), but its mostly due to the relatively low main steam temperature. The inescapable limit of a heat engine. I dont see how enhanced geothermal fixes that?? In most cases getting a higher temperature would mean much more expensive drilling. Enhanced systems also need to account for the pumping energy cost.

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  38. michael sweet @ 83

    I will take your suggestion and move further comments on the costs of renewable energy to your article that was originally posted based upon the Jacobson study.  Just tried to "link" things and accidentally deleted my comments before posting them so I will not try that again!

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