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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 1 to 50 out of 88:

  1. Karma is a bitch.

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  2. One cost that is already emerging is the cost of cooling cities. In Los Angeles they are using cool grey paint for pavements and it will cost $ 40 000 per mile. But will it help? Will reflection cause radiation to go through windows. They are planting trees, but trees reflect radiation - see below:

    My understanding of this paint is that it reflects infrared. With an urban heat island effect, the sunlight (includes infrared and ultraviolet) enters the city and gets reflected around onto walls and so on. They absorb the sunlight to some extent and heat up. The sunlight coming in has mainly short wavelength. After buildings heat up they emit radiation of a longer wavelength. Some of this longer wavelength radiation will probably be reflected by the paint and some will go out to space. The infrared of sunlight is high frequency (short wavelenth ) infrared. The heated buildings emit longer wavelength infrared radiation, mainly. With white cool roofs some sunlight is reflected onto other buildings causing heat problems. One of the big problems can be windows with sunlight entering. Window glass transmits radiation up to about 2.5 microns (the energy goes through the glass if its wavelength is less than about 2.5 microns) and about 97% of solar energy has wavelength less than 2.5 microns, so virtually all enters via a window.
    Now how much of this energy escapes? Well if the walls heats up to 50 deg C, then radiation from them that is above 2.5 microns will not escape. The answer is that far less than 1% of this radiation can escape through the glass because more than 99% of the energy radiated by the 50 deg C walls is of wavelength greater than 2.5 microns (using a blackbody approximation). If a particular cool paint does reflect infrared, where is the infrared radiation going to go? Remember angle of incidence= angle of reflection. One may note that green vegetation reflects solar energy of wavelength between 0.75 to 2.4 microns significantly. Most of this could be reflected through your window into your house (glass lets in radiation of wavelength less than about 2.5 microns). This radiation would heat up objects and the radiation from the hot objects would not be able to get out through the window again (wavelength too long). About 42% of solar energy is energy of wavelength 0.75 to 2.4 microns.

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  3. Every article about the cost impacts of climate change should include the italics added below.

    "New study finds that climate change costs will hit future generations and the less fortunate in Trump country hardest"

    There needs to be a constant reminder that a significant part of the resistance to accepting the required changes of human activity that have been exposed by climate science comes from people who do not care that their actions negatively impact others, especially not being concerned when those others have little or no chance of "Meaningfully, quickly getting back at them for what they did". The people benefiting are not the ones suffering the consequences. Regions are not people. And future generations are not just an extension of the current generation in the business sense of evaluating near term vs. distant benefits.

    The popularity of the unethical assessment that 'the opportunity for benefit that has to be given up by a portion of current day humans to stop creating harm, challenges and costs for others, particularly future generations, is too high' needs to be ended. Claiming it 'costs too much to behave in a way that does not cause harm to others, is a very Poor but Popular Excuse. And it has to be repeatedly exposed that Poor Excuses can and do win popularity and profitability contests to the detriment of the future of humanity.

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  4. My understanding was that this website was limited to the causes of climate change and not to the costs and ways of dealing with those costs.  Largely owing to what I believe will be a "Red Team Blue Team" analysis organized by the EPA (I assume this has not changed while I was on vacation), I have decided that I will not expend any further time on issues of how much temperature change we are headed for thanks to MGW until I have heard the results of this analysis.  As argued by Scott Adams (on a Sam Harris podcast) this publicized Red Team Blue Team approach  is the chance for the proponents of MGW to get the US public onside.  I have to admit this could be somewhat of a "gong show" but if it is organized by someone like Steve Koonin, it does not have to be.

    During my summer vacation, largely owing to the recommendation of Freeman Dyson (not personally, from a You Tube interview), I have now read Bjorn Lomborg's book "Cool It".  Lomborg completely accepts that the present climate change is man-made but argues that massive reductions in the use of fossil fuels at this time does not make sense compared to having the nations of the world each dedicate, per year, .05% of their annual GDP to R&D focussed on non-carbon energy technologies.   His 2008 book only focuses on Kyoto but his website suggests that the Paris Agreement would achieve very little in the way of temperature reductions but at great cost to society.

    Can anyone explain why Bjorn Lomborg's arguments as to a more "focussed" approach to adaptation does not make sense? 

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  5. @4 NorrisM

    For a start Bjorn Lomborg's arguments (as described by you) are not "more focussed". In fact they are decidedly lacking focus. What is the point of researching non-carbon energy technologies if you do not implement them? By pushing the implementation of non-carbon energy we can help push that research and give it focus and urgency. 

    It seems rather laissez-faire to just rely on the hope the research is successful without following up on it to make sure it happens. 

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  6. Swayseeker @2

    "In Los Angeles they are using cool grey paint for pavements and it will cost $ 40 000 per mile. But will it help? Will reflection cause radiation to go through windows.'

    Well obviously some will go through windows, but you need to have some faith in experts, and they clearly believe more is reflected to space than goes through windows, so theres a net benefit to lighter coloured pavements. You have really just asked a rhetorical question, and not provided any data that theres a problem. However I would sure like to see an evaluation if anyone has one. 

    "One of the big problems can be windows with sunlight entering... so virtually all enters via a window."

    Office towers use low emissivity glasses and mirror glass etc to keep solar radiation out as much as possible. So the pavement issue is perhaps not a problem in that context.

    Houses use ordinary glass  that lets most solar energy enter. Lighter coloured streets would reflect some sunlight into houses, but given street width, it just seems to me most would get relected away from buildings.

    In  your typical more northerly temperate America city you actually want heat gain through windows in winter normally, and shading in summer. It's more of an issue of how you achieve this, and one of the best ways is to use ordinary glass which lets in plenty of sunlight, but have an extrnal adjustable awning, eaves or louvred shutter so you can keep heat away from the windows in summer

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  7. OPOF @3

    "New study finds that climate change costs will hit future generations and the less fortunate in Trump country hardest"

    Yes true, but half the people in Trump country dont have the brains to work this out, and the other half have the brains but think their children will be wealthy enough to buy their way out of the problem. They are all missguided. 

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  8. NorrisM @4,

    While many here will be generally familiar with the arguments set out by Bjørn Lomborg on AGW, I think most folk would need to know a lot more about the specifics set out in Lomborg's wonderous "Cool It!!!" book to be able to address your question seriously. Of course, the book is a decade old now and has not exactly set the world alight. That suggests more reason to understand the detail of what it is saying. Does this five-page resume reflect your understanding of its content? Or how about this coverage?

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  9. Norris M

    "His (Blombergs)2008 book only focuses on Kyoto but his website suggests that the Paris Agreement would achieve very little in the way of temperature reductions but at great cost to society."

    Is that right?  Do you always take someones book at face value? Have you even bothered to read the rather compelling criticisms of all Blombergs many books and ideas including the above, merely a google click away? We are talking a whole stream of basic errors in his work, missquting other scientists etc, etc. The guy is not a scientist or environmetal expert he is a statistician.  

    Blombergs study on the Paris agreement takes the most pessimistic possible evaluation of impacts and doesn't consider the costs of  doing nothing. Its a worthless piece of paper. 

    You obviously dont trust the IPCC, a huge organisation, yet want  to place your faith in a jacked up debate between a small handul of cherry picked experts battling things out according to the agenda of the climate denialist organisers. I mean I'm just laughing and laughing. I suggest you google the term Kangaroo court. I place precisely zero value in such a mechanism regardless of what they come up with.

    How can a smaller scale, weaker, distorted version of the IPCC Possibly be better? Its crazy stuff, the worlds gone crazy.

    Delay, deny, dither. Thats all I hear from some of you people

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  10. Norris M

    This cartoon ilustrates the quality of Lomborg's arguments:

    Lomborg cartoon

    Lomborg's job is to write juk about environmental issues.  He publishes books because then he does not have to pass peer review.

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  11. I have read Lomborg's "Cool It".

    Basically the assessment is seriously flawed for many reaosns, not least of which is the fatally flawed belief that it is OK for a group of people to pursue personal benefit in ways that are understood to create harm, costs, and challenges for Other People.

    The arguments against acting to reduce climate change impacts are basically comparisons of:

    • the current day lost opportunities to benefit from the understood to be damaging activities athta are also understood to not be able to be continued to be a benefit in the future (because burning up non-renewable buried ancient hydrocarbon is a dead-end activity with escallating costs to continue).
    • with the perceived costs imposed on Other People in the future.

    The bigest falacy is the belief that perceptions of wealth and value today will magically continue and increase in value in the future. That belief only works if the created value is sustainable activity with increased value being improved sustainable activity.

    The like sof Lonborg can only argue that their last opportunity costs are greater than the costs they create for others. The simple rebuttal is that costs to others must be minimized to the point of being eliminated if humanity is to have a chance of advancing to a better future.

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  12. NorrisM,

    I would suggest that SkS is about increased awareness and better understanding of all matters related to climate science, which would include understanding the basis of claims made regarding actions required because of the constant improvement of understanding of climate science.

    From my perspective climate science has raised awareness and better understanding of the fatally flawed belief that 'everyone freer to believe what they want and do as they please will develop Good results'. The evidence is overwhelming that misleading marketing and the flawed perceptions of prosperity, popularity and profitability it an create and prop-up are a major hurdle to be overcome by climate scientists as they try to ensure the success of their efforts to improve awareness and understanding.

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  13. "- climate change costs will hit Trump Country hardest." - all the more reason for the people there to really, really want it not to be true. Electing people who will tell them it isn't true must provide a lot of reassurance.

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  14. NorrisM,

    To clarify my points regarding the unhelpfulness of the likes of Bjorn Lomborg and Lord Monckton regarding the appropriate awareness and understanding of the changes of human activity that climate science has identified as being required to improve the future for all of humanity, it is important to understand that 'anything that does not improve the future for all of humanity is unhelpful'.

    Another way of saying that is 'only activities that have a net-zero or net-positive impact on Others are acceptable'. That is the fundamantal ethic behind sustainable rule of law. Any law and application of law that does not meet that measure ultimately deserves to be rewritten or revoked (like revised definitions of what Environmental Protection must include). And it is a rational consideration from the perspective the person affected, not the person making the impact, that determines if there is a net-negative impact.

    The burning of fossil fuels, therefore, only becomes acceptable if there is no net-negative impact on any Others, with future generations being considered to be Others.

    The likes of Lomborg and Monckton (and Trump) appeal to the selfish interests among the current generation. They try to claim that it is OK for some among the current generation to benefit from an activity that is understandably creating net-negative impacts for Others. They base their claims on showing that, from their perspective, the opportunity that has to be given up by current day people is less than the harm, costs and challenges that are being created for Others. And they attempt to justify more future harm by applying what is called a net-present-value assessment (or discounting of future costs) that reduces the value of future costs the further into the future they are. And they do not acknoweldge the 'Others' aspect. They instead claim that the harm done is acceptable as long as it is less than the opportunity to benefit that they evaluate would have to be given up by current day people since the result is a net-neutral or net-positive from their perspoective. That type of evaluation can easily be seen to be ridiculous, yet it continues to be used and be popular.

    It is undeniable that much of the developed economic activity of the supposedly (perceived and claimed to be) most advanced nations and corporations was developed in the wrong direction (unsustainable activity). Those who continued with that incorrect direction of development since 1990 (and even earlier, potentially as early as 1972 when the Stockholm Conference identified the required changes of direction), have only themselves to blame for the current developed fact that making the required changes as rapidly as they need to be made is 'to their significant disadvantage'.

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  15. Swayseeker @2; about passive cooling. All electromagnetic radiation,light included, gets converted to lower wave-length radiation and re-emited (as heat-radiation). Atmosphere is buffering a lot of that heat in the form of latent heat in water vapor, chemical (potential) energy (Ozon, in the upper layers) and in the surface of the Earth. At night a lot of the captured heat goes out again into (cold) space as infra-red, partly reflected back by clouds. { so far, where does that energy go eventually }

    Just a bit of the incoming radiation (7 out of the 174 units of energy) is reflected directly back into space during the day. One does increase direct reflection amount, especially in heat islands as city by painting with heat reflecting paint, which tend to be white in (visible) range. Painting asphalt roads grey would keep the temperature of the surface low, reduces the costs of maintenance, wear on car tyres in the long run. If that is worrth a $40,000 a mile, I don't know.  

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  16. What just amazes me and leaves me bewildered is this. Bjorn Lomberg has a degree in political science, with some sort of specialty in statistics. Now I respect his qualifications, but how can someone with a degree in statistics of all things point to a cherry picked period of a couple of years of decline in sea level? He of all people as a statistician should know such short periods mean nothing, are not represenatative, and this is doubly true because the graph posted above on sea level clearly shows similar "blips" all through the 20th century of decline, but within an overall century long increasing trend.

    So it proves the old saying you can have a PHd degree in whatever subject, and still be incredibly stupid at times. Perhaps I'm being rather rude and blunt. So terribly sorry about that.

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    'First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker'

    The specially-built ship completed the crossing in just six-and-a-half days setting a new record, according to the tanker's Russian owners.

    "The 300-metre-long Sovcomflot ship, the Christophe de Margerie, was carrying gas from Norway to South Korea.

    Rising Arctic temperatures are boosting commercial shipping across this route."
    Posted by: Hans Gunnstaddar | August 26, 2017 at 06:21

    ..the proof mounts up...

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  18. Correction in my post @14

    "They base their claims on showing that, from their perspective, the opportunity that has to be given up by current day people is more than the harm, costs and challenges that are being created for Others."

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  19. nigelj@16,

    In order for Bjorn Lomborg to have made his 2008 claim about sea levels he was almost certain to have been aware of the data history, including data prior to 2006. He would have been looking for the longest duration he could claim for the 'no sea level rise for the past ??? years'.

    Therefore, he most likely was well aware that the history includes other periods that would appear to have been the 'end of sea level rise'.

    Therefore, he most likely deliberately made-up his misleading claim to achieve an understandably unhelpful/unacceptable objective.

    Therefore, he has little reliability/credibility as a source of valid information or Good Reasoning. He has very little reliability as an information source.

    All sources can be shown to have 'made some mistakes in the rush to be the first to present new information'. The more reliable sources make fewer and less significant 'mistakes'. But the 2008 claim made up by Bjorn was not a researcher's 'mistake' due to a rush to claim something first. It was wrong in a way that Bjorn Lomborg would have easily been aware of (and part of the blame has to go to all the media that published his claim 'uncorrected for the easy to establish fallacy that it was').

    People wanting to believe the claims made by the likes of Lomborg have to be unaware of the lack of reliability of such sources. Their continued 'faith' and 'belief' in things that are contrary to available evidence and the best explanations of what can be observed/discovered is due to a motivation to 'want to continue to believe the unbelievable'.

    History is filled with cases of people preferring to believe something contrary to the actual developed better awareness and understanding. And they have often argued for 'what they believe' (maintained understandably incorrect beliefs) for hundreds of years after the virtually conclusive unacceptability of what they prefer to believe has been established.

    There truly are some things outside of increased awareness and better understanding, such as spiritual beliefs. But a spiritual believer is also capable of changing their mind based on increased awareness and better understanding. It is interesting to note that many people claiming a spiritual belief as the reason they do not accept an understanding of science also claim that all beliefs should be considered to be valid (an implied equivalence of validity for any belief). But they also insist that their preferred belief is the 'correct one' which is a clear contradiction of their claim that all beliefs are equally valid (and all spritual beliefs/atheism are all to be considered to be equally valid until actual independently verifiable substantial proof shows otherwise). The 'Believers' appear to detest Good Reason and True Expertise because it contradicts their preferred way of thinking - believing rather than understanding - in a way they cannot legitimately rationally argue against).

    The best understanding of what is going on eventually wins, but often not before massive damage is done by Undeserving Winners of competitions for popularity and profitability getting away with the support of 'Beliefs that are Ridiculous' as Excuses for actions that are understandably unacceptable.

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  20. OPOF @19

    You could be right. Some people are indeed scientifically literate enough to know whats really going on, but deliberatly misrepresent things for ulterior motives. But I have known very bright well educated people who are just weak in science.

    Either way the result is the same, and Lombergs mistakes are as you say too numerous to excuse. The Danish Ministry of Science also found his book scientifically dishonest, in a formal hearing, although he was cleared of personal dishonesty. But if thats not still a red flag what is?


    Lomberg has demonstrated over and over that he cannot be relied upon to be accurate and objective on matters of climate change, and he also has a strong sceptical position, therefore there will always be a suspicion this colours his economic analysis of the Paris issue.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  21. This is perceptive about Lomberg and his "copenhagen consensus"


    We need to stop our obsession with global warming, and start dealing with the many more pressing issues in the world, where we can do most good first and quickest," Lomborg concluded.

    While Lomborg's views are dismissed by the overwhelming majority of those researching climate change, his attendance in Buenos Aires ensured that his views where not only projected into the 'echo chamber' by conservative news sites such as, but picked up by the BBC as well.[15]

    Others don't think the outcome of the Copenhagen Consensus should be taken all that seriously. Not only were the invited presenters all economists, critics of the process point to the constrained choices they were presented with in ranking priorities that the global community should address.

    "Climate strategies are compared with measures to address problems that everyone agrees are crucial. But climate strategies should also be compared with other goals that society spends (or wastes) money on. One relevant example is to ask what can be delayed with the least harm: climate measures or exploration of Saturn’s rings? Or what about ranking climate measures in relation to spending tens of millions of dollars a year developing new kinds of nuclear weapons, as the Bush administration seems prepared to do?," wrote Pål Prestrud and Hans Seip from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO).[16]

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Shortened link.

  22. nigelj,

    Regarding what humanity needs to focus on ... The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals are probably the most robustly developed (having the most extensive and rigorous effort put into its development) set of actions that humanity must "cocurrently pursue".

    Those goals were developed through massive international cooperation in increasing awareness and understanding through the years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

    For the likes of Lomborg to claim that "They know Better" without actually providing 'substantive Good Reasons based on new information' as the basis for changing the SDGs is the epitome of damaging dangerous hubris. It is simiar to the ridiculous 'US Supposed-Winners-of-Leadership-in-the-Moment' claim that their Red Team-Blue Team climate change assessment would be more relevant than the IPCC reports and recommendations.

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  23. "- climate change costs will hit Trump Country hardest."  It doesn't matter.  The 1%-funded alt-media (Breitbart, Faux News) peddles the alternative fact that whatever happens to 'Trump Country', its someone else's fault.  This is its sole purpose.  So the more 'Trump Country' is squeezed, by anything including climate change, the more imperative it will be for them to vote for people like Trump.  What happened to the Germans in the 1920s was the fault of the Jews (not their centuries-old rivalry with the Franks which ended badly in WWI).  This is a time-honored tradition for the kind of people for whom certainty 'trumps' accuracy.  Whatever happens to 'Trump Country', their media will simply wheel out the 'usual suspects' to direct their anger.  Which tiresomely was revealed the other day in Charlottesville VA with the chanted slogan 'Jews will not replace us'.

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  24. ubrew12@23,

    A misdirection to create 'unjustified perceptions of anxiety leading to misdirected fear and resulting in misdirected anger' that is pertinent to the corrective actions that climate science has exposed as being required for the advancement of humanity to a truly lasting growth of economic activity making things better for everyone is: Claims that the inequity of distribution of the truly massive wealth within the USA is to be blamed on things like NAFTA.

    The people easily tempted to be angry about 'Others' benefiting from agreements like NAFTA are also easily tempted to be angry about the Paris Agreement requirement for the inequity of global wealth and harm due to climate change impacts to be corrected by requiring the wealthy of the nations who got richest from the previous decades of massive damaging burning of fossil fuels (decades that saw the damaging activity be prolonged and even increased in spite of it being well understood that development in that direction was damaging and unsustainable though undeniably cheaper for those benefiting for as long as the understandably damaging ultimately unsustainable activity can be gotten away with - any growth in perceived prosperity/wealth could not be expected to be maintained), to 'transfer wealth and provide support' to genuinely sustainably improve the lives of those who undeservingly lose in the fatally flawed games of popularity and profitability.

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  25. A follow-up to my comment@24,

    Misdirection/misleading messages regarding many aspects of the increased awareness and better understanding get popular support by creating 'unjustified perceptions of anxiety leading to misdirected fear and resulting in misdirected anger' related to the requirement for human activity to be corrected to undo damaging development along the fossil fuels burning path.

    Undoing decades of prolonging and expanding economic development based on fossil fuel burning is a major correction of perceptions of prosperity. In Alberta it can be seen that the push to expand extraction facilities for the Oil Sands was done to increase the number of people incorrectly perceiving their opportunity for prosperity to be related to excusing the global burning of fossil fuels and disliking and attacking anyone who says otherwise.

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  26. A minor improved understanding of my comment @24,

    "... requiring the wealthy of the nations who got richest from the previous decades of massive damaging burning of fossil fuels ... to 'transfer wealth and provide support' to genuinely sustainably improve the lives of those who undeservingly lose in (experience a net-negative result) due to the fatally flawed games of popularity and profitability."

    Many of the people 'Losing' are not 'in the games' and would perfer to enjoy life 'outside of, and not negatively affected by, the fatally flawed competitions for temporarily developed perceptions of Winning more than Others any way that can be gotten away with'.

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  27. NorrisM @4

    Please, what's MGW? The most (but doubtfully) relevant expansion that I can find is Minors Gone Wild, in the Urban Dictionary.

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  28. Tony Abbott lost the Prime-Ministership of Australia by trying to make us accept B. Lomborg should be allowed to espouse his views from the pulpit of one of our most famous Universities.

    He lost all credibility and his job because Lomborg was globally known as being a flim-flam artist... it was the funniest thing: you had to be there I suppose.

    Climate Change alarmism is perpetrated by the climate change denialists to make everything look uncredible... It's all about credibility and the vested interests don't attack in straight lines: there is always the direct and the indirect attack! Newspapers are propaganda machines and the subtlety of the game is how it's won.

    In the end the people lead and governments follow so if you want change then the consuming voter will get change only by demanding it be so. Hence suppliers are changing their ways to meet such perceived increases in demand as they know there are too many jokes out there like Lomborg that fool nobody anymore!!

    It's almost like people are starting to actually care about the children they decided to bring into this world.

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  29. Good point, Susanne @27.

    "MGW" is a mysterious neologism, which I too had never encountered prior to reading post #4.

    Perhaps he means "Minimal Global Warming" — although that would seem to be begging the question about an issue which would count as too trivial to deserve any attention at all.  So it can't be that [in view of the severity of the AGW problem, and, indeed, of NorrisM's many lengthy posts on this website].

    Perhaps he means MajorGW [though that also would be incompatible with NorrisM's inclination toward denial of the scientific evidence].

    Perhaps "Mysterious Global Warming"? . . . but that doesn't fit with the fact that our modern-day rapid Global Warming has a cause which is well-understood and well-proven.  Nothing mysterious at all, there.

    Susanne, please let me know if you discover the solution to the mysterious case of M .   ( --Almost sounding like the title of a Conan Doyle short story about Sherlock Holmes ) .

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  30. #17 -Bozza -"'First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker'"

    The tanker is an ice breaker with the Russian certification level of ARC7

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  31. @27 and 29,

    I just assumed MGW meant "Man-made Global Warming". But I've never seen that term used before. It's always been AGW that I have seen.   

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  32. Whew!  Just checked back since referencing Bjorn Lomberg's book and recent views.  Sorry Susanne, just back from holidays and forgot the term.  Everyone knew what I meant so I am not sure how you advanced any argument by your comment.   Ad hominen's are a very poor way to advance arguments.

    Lomborg makes a lot of claims which can be refuted factually if they are incorrect.  But his primary point is that there are more efficent ways of battling the effects of AGW than just massively reducing CO2 emissions without a viable alternative for cheap energy having been discovered.

    When predicting the future, it is difficult to suggest "technology" will solve it but look back at the past and ask what has more upset predictions than technology?  Paul Ehrlich's claims that the world would starve to death did not take into account technological changes in agriculture as an example.  We humans are a bit apocalyptic. 

    I intend to follow some of the above information, especially MA Roger's suggested urls.  

    But today, when wind and solar represent .4% (not even 4%) of world energy consumption and fossil fuels are somewhere around 85%, is it rational or responsible to simply reduce fossil fuel consumption to 15% as suggested by Bill McKibben?  I just shake my head when I hear things like this.

    One "cost" that I even saw that Lomborg "dodged" is the cost of land reclamation.  His approach is to measure the cost to a nation as a percentage of its GDP.  I assume this will be referenced in some of the criticisms above.  Looking forward to reading them.   

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  33. MA Roger

    So now I know of Kare Fog!  Interesting comments on Bjorn Lomborg's two books. 

    On Lomborg's website, he shows a very controversial graph where he measures how many units of CO2 would be required to keep temperatures to 2.7C by 2100 versus what the Paris Agreement would achieve if fully implemented by all nations including the US.

    The graph shows that 3,066 Gt CO2 would be required whereas the Paris Agreement would only achieve 33 Gt CO2.  I believe the website even claims that Christiana Figueres, the UN Climate chief, admits that the Paris Agreement alone would only achieve 33 Gt CO2.

    Is this true?  Or even remotely true? Surely this is a factual statement that can be confirmed or denied.  Even if the Paris figure is ten times this amount, this is a very relevant issue, if only to understand the cost estimates. 

    My understanding is that even Lord Stern, the author of the UK report on the economic costs of climate change, has joined the Global Apollo Group which seems to be recommending a course similar to what Lomborg has proposed.  As well, James Hansen, I believe does not think we can achieve the goals without turning to nuclear power solutions.

    If Lomborg's numbers are correct, do we not have to consider alternatives to massive cuts 100 times larger than what the Paris Agreement would achieve?  

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  34. NorrisM @33,

    You now appear to be citing this Lomborg web-page which is a presentation of the findings of Lomborg (2015). You ask "Is this true? Or even remotely true?" It appears to be not remotely true. According to Ward (2016), Lomborg (2015) simply sets up his desired answer within the assumptions he adopts.

    And you understanding is flawed as Lomborg's proposed solutions are entirely inconsistent with those of the Global Apollo Programme.

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  35. NorrisM@33,

    The Paris Agreement is structured to require increased CO2 abatement actions in future years.

    Without future increased actions from the initial offered actions of each nation (without the Paris Agreement commitment to increase actions to collectively keep global warming impacts to 2.0 C), the future of humanity is indeed going to be severely negatively affected (but the Undeserving Winners of a better life today won't suffer any serious personal losses so All is Right by Them).

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  36. NorrisM @33 etc.,

    MA Rodger has recommended the Global Apollo Programme [ @#34 above ].   It would be very much worth your while to read ~ a couple of dozen pages, and little more than 15 minutes of your time.  The authors are British, and the report is slightly dated in that it is based on information of 3 - 5 years ago.  But all that has happened since then, is that renewable energy has become even cheaper to produce . . . and the recent run of record-hot years [2014/2015/2016/2017ytd] is showing the urgency of displacing fossil-fuel usage.  There is not the luxury of time to dawdle and do little or nothing (e.g. the do-nothing policy of Lomborg).

    You are wasting your time if you read anything by Lomborg.

    Koonin, in comparison, is [IMO] merely confused about climate matters (because his intellect is overridden by his motivated reasoning) but he is [again, IMO] basically an honest guy.

    Lomborg is a propagandist and an "indirect" apologist for fossil-fuel industry interests (he tries to portray himself as independent and "Luke-Warm", yet that is belied by his statements).  He is, in parliamentary terminology, very "economical with the truth".   My comments here are not an Ad Hominem attack, but simply a description based on his abominable track record.   Quite possibly Lomborg is kind to animals and children in his personal life : yet his "scientific statements" are designed to misinform and mislead the naive reader.  He is a science-denier in Sheep's Clothing [please excuse the cliche].   Possibly he may at some future time, come out with good & useful information . . . but so far he has failed to do so.

    BTW [= by the way ] NorrisM, welcome back from your "sea holiday" !   Interestingly, it appears to have caused a "sea change" in your thinking : you appear to have abandoned any "judicial approach" to climate science, and you now seem to have become more an advocate of "outliers" such as Lomborg.   Would it not be simpler & more straightforward to accept the (overwhelming) weight of evidence that the mainstream scientists are correct.

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  37. MA Rodger

    Apologize for missing the "d".

    This is interesting.  The Ward analysis responds to the Lomborg analysis. What I find interesting is the following statement which seems to support Lomborg's postion that achieving 2.7C is based upon assumptions of future cuts after 2030: "Neither of these scenarios corresponds to expected policies beyond 2030."  This statement follows the analysis, of the cuts in the Paris Agreement proposed by the US, the EU and China.

    So I have to assume that the Paris Agreement only goes to 2030.  My understanding is that Lomborg then assumes that no futher cuts are made other than keeping those cuts for the next 70 years.  Then I understand from Ward that Lomborg uses the IPCC 'worst case scenario" temperature rises to come up with his 3,066 Gta CO2 reduction.

    Lomborg on his webpage makes reference to the fact that "future cuts" in 2030 beyond those in the Paris Agreement will be required to achieve the 2.7C level by 2100. 

    So is Lomborg not correct that what was achieved with the Paris Agreement, by itself, is really not very much?  Maybe I am missing something but 33 Gta to 3,066 Gta is a long way to go.  Assuming Lomborg used the most conservative estimates of "business as usual' beyond what had been agreed with the Paris Agreement, I have to think that the required amount to keep temperature rises to 2.7C would still be not less than 1,000 Gta CO2.  Now I am purely speculating but it does not seem that the "assumed" future cuts in 2030 will only be minimal. 

    I admit that I think I am out of my depth on this but it takes a lot of exaggeration to go from 33 Gta to 3,066 Gta.

    I wish someone with a little more technical background could respond.

    But onto ground with which I am more comfortable.  Can someone respond to my question of how we magically get from .4% solar and wind to even 50% in 30 years?  And at what cost per unit of energy?

    Can someone also not respond to why James Hansen believes that the only way to achieve the goals is to turn to nuclear energy?  Where is he wrong?

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  38. Norris M @30

    The Paris Agreement.

    Opinions differ on what cuts to emissions and temperature reductions it will achieve because of the complexities and policies of individual countries. Plenty of sources claim it will achieve considerably larger cuts than Lomberg claims both by 2030, 2050 and 2100. Given the massive criticisms of Lombers calculations by numerous experts, and the fact the Danish Government found one of his books on climate change scientifically dishonest, can you guess whos views I have more respect for?

    Some expert discussion on paris accord:

    Costs of renewable energy. An example:

    My country of NZ has approx. 9,637mwh installed capacity of all sorts of generation, some actually renewable. But for the sake of an example, to convert all that to wind energy costs approx. $50 billion. This is equal to about 8 months worth of total government spending for one year. It is about one quarter of NZ total gdp per year.

    Obviously not all that generating capacity would be built in one year. Lets assume it is built within a 20 year time frame. That about $2.5 billion per year, about one quarter of what the government spends each year just on the old age pension (NZ Super). Given Americas economy is not that different to ous in per capita structure I dont see costs being that different. At least it gives you some idea of scale and that it is expensive but obviously not unaffordable.

    I'm not a technical expert on all this, but basic arithmetic is easy enough. And why would anyone bother with more detailed technical explanations when you have consistently shown many times that you ignore technical information / internet links / sources?

    Nuclear Energy:

    Hanson promotes nuclear energy. Costs are slightly cheaper than renewable energy, depends however on the country and wind is cheaper in some countries,  but building these things is a nightmare because of regulatory controls around safety etc. This is why operators in America are choosing other alternatives like wind, solar and gas. I dont think Hanson is either right or wrong, but in America generators are choosing other options.

    Hope that helps.

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  39. NorrisM @37.

    After a lot of waffle you state "I admit that I think I am out of my depth on this but it takes a lot of exaggeration to go from 33 Gta to 3,066 Gta."

    The numbers do appear disparate so the first question to ask is "What are these numbers?" (and it is worrying that such a question has to be asked). As you feel 'out of your depth', it would be remiss of me to ask you. But do consider the situation. ☻ You apparently gleen these numbers from Lomborg's web-page comment where Lomborg states that the value "33GtCO2" comes from the UNFCCC saying "Figueres’ own organization estimates the Paris promises will reduce emissions by 33Gt CO₂ in total." Yet there is no sign of such a number in the UNFCCC document from which you would expect this Lomborg reference - the UNFCCC INDC Synthesis Report. ☻ Lomborg (2015) explicitly cites the UNFCCC INDC Synthesis Report and here the referred values ("3.6 (0.0–7.5) Gt CO2eq in 2030") are correctly cited - but note Lomborg himself prefers to use the 2030 value of "6.2–6.8Gt" which is significantly different. But there is no direct sign of any 33Gt or 3,066Gt values.  ☻ So Lomborg is no help at all in explaining his own numbers but it is evident from these figures that your "33 Gta to 3,066 Gta" are multi-year values, with perhaps the 'cumulative reduction in emissions over the period 2017-2100' being the most likely given the 3,066GtCO2(e) figure. Indeed 2017-2100 is the only period under discussion that would provide for a value of thousands of GtCO2(e) emissions/emissions reduction. But with such an accumulative measure and even if reductions as small as "3.6Gt CO2eq in 2030" are being considered, how can this translate into an accumulative "emissions (of) 33Gt CO₂ in total"? It doesn't seem possible. Even the most strict of the two ridiculous schemes set out in Lomborg (2015) would yield at least 77GtCO2(e) by 2100.

    So the question "What are these numbers?" remains unanswered and if you don't know what the numbers are, there is little point in bring them here for discussion.

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  40. nigelj @ 38

    Thanks for the reference to the factcheck website. I think I will make a contribution to that site because it truly seems to be independent.

    Here is the quote from that website on the MIT study of the Paris Agreement:

    ["The MIT report looked at the effect that the majority of the first set of pledges would have on warming by 2100. In their report, the MIT researchers assumed countries wouldn’t make additional, more ambitious pledges.

    “Assuming the proposed cuts [under the Paris Agreement] are extended through 2100 but not deepened further, they result in about 0.2°C less warming by the end of the century,” the report said."]

    My sense from reading this full article is that the Paris Agreement alone does only represent .2C as suggested by Lomborg and every other figure is based upon some assumptions of futher cuts after 2030. This may be a valid assumption but it does not change the actual effect of the Paris Agreement.

    Does anyone want to take on MIT?

    Nigel, I wonder what NZ would look like with enough wind turbines to supplant all of its other sources of energy? Tourism might take a hit. I have to admit that one of the biggest problems I have with both wind power and solar power is the defacement of our world. This is leaving aside the number of birds that will be destroyed using wind turbines. Not sure why, but the images of Kevin Costner's Waterworld come back to me. Too bad fusion has not worked. I think I would rather live with sea levels rising and have to deal with that by adaptation rather than having massive areas of our lands covered with solar panels and wind turbines.

    That is why the Lomborg/Global Apollo Programme approach appeals to me. By the way, my search on Wikipedia and the internet would seem to suggest that the Global Apollo Programme has not had much success in getting nations to commit to .02% of GDP towards research.

    Given the realities of coal use in developing countries, I would have thought that there should be massive reseach into carbon capture and other ways to reduce the impact of coal on the environment. Instead we just attempt to impose unrealistic restraints on the use of fossil fuels that are effectively ignored by India and China, the biggest emitters, notwithstanding what China says.

    I still have not heard how the world is going to go from .4% solar and wind to whatever level is necessary to reduce global temperatures to a level of 2.7C by 2100 without coming up with a cheap source of energy to replace fossil fuels.

    I think we all want a better world. Fossil fuels have massively enhanced our civilization. We simply would not be where we are today without them. There are just major disagreements on how we achieve this better world without throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have to exclude Trump (not all his administration like Tillerson) from this group (and unfortunately many of his supporters). He is just focussed on America First. Hopefully, we can get past this period safely but I worry that this anti-globalization/free trade movement is not just in America.

    Eclectic. Somewhere I noted before departing on our sailing holiday that with the proposed "Red Team Blue Team" proposal of Scott Pruitt, I decided it would be better to sit back and watch the experts go at it rather than me try to understand what is a very complicated area.

    I truly hope that they just hand it over to someone like Steve Koonin to appoint the climatologists on both sides of the debate because he will ensure that the most knowledgeable on both sides are represented. I am not moved by your explanation of Koonin's approach which relegates his caution to "motivated reasoning". All he is questioning is the ability of the global climate models to accurately predict what future temperatures will be based upon their track record. If this Red Team Blue Team debate shows that the track record of the models is good then you will have him and the American public behind the majority scientific view with pressure on Trump both to accept that it is not just a Chinese hoax and to propose steps to address AGW. I worry that the lack of recent news on this front reflects a reluctance on the part of Trump to take this chance.

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  41. NorrisM @30

    I'm not going to continue this much more, because you are not listening to what several different people are saying. Simplifying everything, Paris is only a first stage attack on warming so obviously it has limited objectives. I dont see why you think that's a bad thing.

    Lombergs numbers assume 1) the most negative possible outcomes from Paris and 2) nothing more will be done after Paris, which is just totally absurd, nothing more needs to be said. Thats not science or economics, its just his pessimistic political opinion, yet it's buried away as the basic assumption in his so called economic study. 

    You worry about massive areas of land covered by wind turbines. Well massive areas aren't covered, and many are being put well out to sea.

    Fossil fuels have been a great energy source. They are not the only energy source, you need to get your head around that.

    Its not just about sea leve rise and that is more than concerning enough. We face more droughts, heatwaves and more intense hurricanes etc. Micheal Mann has already commented on how Hurricane Harvery was certainly made worse by climate change. You have to consider the big picture.

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  42. NorrisM@40,
    The Paris Agreement is the agreement to collectively act to limit the total human impacts to a rise of 2.0 C above pre-industrial levels.

    Therefore, it includes the agreement/understanding/requirement to increase initial commitments to achieve that goal.

    The actions to be taken are not stipulated. Therefore, the proposal by Lomborg to use tax money to fund research would fit as a Paris Agreement action. In keeping with achieving the objective the research funding should come from Carbon Fees. And, in keeping with the Paris Agreement objective, the amount would be increased as required to meet the 2 C impact limit.

    However, increasing the cost of trouble-making activity more effectively achieves the required changes of human activity by making the marketplace a helpful rather than harmful part of the program (harmful because getting away with a less acceptable way of doing something is easy to drum up popular support for, because it almost always cheaper/more profitable with little apparent consequence for the ones benefiting). A particular problem with funding research with tax money is the 'game' of deciding what groups get funded and ensuring that no personal gain is obtained through copyright of developments made due to public funding (those results should be copyright free). So it would be better to simply have a Carbon Fee that is fully rebated equally to everyone making the lowest impacting people the Winners, with the Fee increased as required to meet the objective.

    A key consideration has to be that what some people have developed is unsustainable perceptions of prosperity and wealthy through actions that harm the ability of others to live decently (especially harm done to future generations by creating/increasing the costs and challenges they have to deal with while having reduced access to potentially sustainably beneficial resources like buried ancient hydrocarbons). It is all deceptively defended by the claim that everyone freer to believe what they want and do as they please will produce a more decent result (an unsubstantiated Dogma of some Economists that has mounting evidence to show it is not actually justified because of the successful abuses of misleading marketing by deliberate trouble-makers pursuing what they want any way they can get away with).

    Undeniably the required result is advancement of humanity to sustainable better futures for everyone. The UN Sustainable Development Goals would achieve that objective and can be improved by substantive presentation of new evidence that had not been part of the massive basis used for establishing those Goals through the 45 years of collective international effort that developed them). Anyone attempting to defend perceptions of prosperity resulting from unsustainable damaging activities like the burning of fossil fuels has no real Good Reason, just Poor Excuses.

    There is more than enough opportunity for decent living by the current, and even increased, levels of global population. All that needs to be ended is the foolish unsubstantiated belief (only supported by Economist Dogma) that the developed economic competitions will eventually produce that result.

    Regulation or Penalties or Fees are undeniably required on unacceptable activity that must be ended sooner than the fatally flawed games of competition for popularity and profitability would end them (only ending when the opportunity to more easily get away with benefiting becomes more expensive or more difficult than alternatives or massive damage is done - not that without regulation the alternatives that are Cheaper and Easier are likely to be something similarly damaging and unsustainable).

    Some people who have developed unsustainable perceptions of prosperity and opportunity will perceive such measures as “Harmful to Them”. Others will understand what is required and change their minds to become helpful participants in advancing all of humanity to a lasting better future.

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  43. Norris M

    According to this article, in March 10% of the USA electricity was generated using wind and solar.  That is about 4% of all poser used.  Since wind and solar are much more efficient than other power sources (coal and nuclear vent half their energy as waste heat), their use reduces overall power use.

    Please provide a reference for your ridiculous assertion that only .4% of energy is provided by these sources.  It is easy to make renewable energy look impossible by using fake data.

    The solutions project shows how all power can be generaged by renewable energy.  This power is cheaper than fossil fuels and dramatically reduces health costs through reduction of pollution.

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  44. Wind and power are not more efficent than higher density fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

    The Foreign Affairs Sept/Oct Issue has a review by Michael Shellengberger on Vaclav Smil's new book Energy and Civilization, A History.  The review is entitled "The Nuclear Option - Renewables Can't Save the Planet - but Uranium Can.  I am not sure this url will work.  But it supports my view that solar and wind power are low density energy sources compared to nuclear energy.  What do you do with the massive wind turbines when they stop working or all the solar cells when they need to be replaced?

    If there is someway to post this article on this website, I would be happy to figure out how to do so even if I have to pay Foreign Affairs some charge.  Please let me know.

    As for my source of .4% I suspect most other contributors to this website do not dispute that estimate.  In addition to some charts I have from an article of James Hansen sent to me by one of my "warring sisters", I have simple gone onto Wikipedia and searched "world energy consumption". 

    Here is a sample of what he says:

    "Smil is right about the slow pace of energy transitions, but his skepticism of renewables does not go far enough. Solar and wind power are unlikely to ever provide more than a small fraction of the world’s energy; they are too diffuse and unreliable. Nor can hydroelectric power, which currently produces just 2.4 percent of global energy, replace fossil fuels, as most of the world’s rivers have already been dammed. Yet if humanity is to avoid ecological catastrophe, it must find a way to wean itself off fossil fuels.

    Smil suggests that the world should achieve this by sharply cutting energy consumption per capita, something environmental groups have advocated for the last 40 years. But over that period, per capita energy consumption has risen in developed and developing countries alike. And for good reason: greater energy consumption allows vastly improved standards of living. Attempting to reverse that trend would guarantee misery for much of the world. The solution lies in nuclear power, which Smil addresses only briefly and inadequately. Nuclear power is far more efficient than renewable sources of energy and far safer and cleaner than burning fossil fuels. As a result, it offers the only way for humanity to both significantly reduce its environmental impact and lift every country out of poverty."

    PS.  This article says wind and solar represented 1.8% in 2015 so I my information is incorrect.  More than happy to acknowledge that my sources provided a lower percentage.  Go on Wikipedia and see if you find a different percentage than I did.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed link. Use the Link tool in the comments editor to do it yourself.

    (Just a note that opinion pieces and grey literature dont hold as much weight here as peer-reviewed studies and assessments from agencies like IEA).

    Also, you opening assertion implies you understand "efficiency" very differently than normal use. Back that assertion with references please.

  45. NorrisM,

    Before I will accept a claim that allowing increased unsustainable activity (and nuclear power is just another unustainable activity) improves things for all of humanity now and into the distant future, I will require proof that the economic system is actually focused on improving the living conditions of all of the least fortunate.

    With the exception of a very few of the Most Developed countries (like Norway), the evidence contradicts that claim.

    Global measures of wealth have increased faster than the population (use whatever reliable sources you want to verify that - no alternative facts please). And yet there are still many people living brutal short existences or living at high risk of ruin (even in the USA - citizens without affordable decent health care). That needs to be sustainably changed.

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  46. NorrisM:

    You are rapidly wearing out people's patience.

    Your arguments (well, the ones you are repeating) about the failings of the Paris agreement are the equivalent of someone saying "I need to get from New York to Los Angeles by tomorrow. I think I'll catch a cab to the airport", and having you say "the cab will never get you to Los Angeles by tomorrow". Not getting to the airport will pretty much guarantee that you won't get to Los Angeles. Taking it gives you a chance.

    Lomborg and his ilk have no interest in seeing a solution. They only want to maintain the status quo, and preventing people from taking that first step is part of their strategy. Their argument that you shouldn't take the cab would be more believable if they offered to give you a ride to the airport themselves, but they don't do that. It's all smoke and mirrors.

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  47. Norris M @44

    You claimed that wind power is not more efficient than fossil fuels and nuclear. This is not correct. Wind power is slightly cheaper than both nuclear and fossil fuels, and cost is the measure of efficiency in capitalist society.  

    Thats not to say there are not challenges with wind as you noted, but various studies such as Jacobson suggest solutions to intermittency issues.

    However I have nothing totally against Nuclear power. Don't love it either given things like Chernobyl. 

    At least its clean, and while ultimately not sustainable in the long run I would compromise on that aspect in the name of the problem of climate change, and some countries have limited wind and solar options.

    But nuclear is not currently a preferred option in electricity markets anyway and they are going for wind, solar and gas. I don't see a reason to force nuclear onto people.

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  48. It seems my url suffers from the same problems which I have experienced with other urls on this website.  You get part but then have to subscribe to the newspaper to get the rest of the article.

    I will add two more sections and leave it at that:


    "Moreover, all three previous energy transitions resulted in what’s known as “dematerialization”: the new fuels produced the same amount of energy using far fewer natural resources. By contrast, a transition from fossil fuels to solar or wind power, biomass, or hydroelectricity would require rematerialization—the use of more natural resources—since sunlight, wind, organic matter, and water are all far less energy dense than oil and gas.

    "Basic physics predicts that that rematerialization would significantly increase the environmental effects of generating energy. Although these would not be uniformly negative, many would harm the environment. Defunct solar panels, for example, are often shipped to poor countries without adequate environmental safeguards, where the toxic heavy metals they contain can leach into water supplies."

    And the following:

    "In both Energy and Civilization and Power Density, Smil introduces the concept of “energy return on energy investment” (EROEI), the ratio of energy produced to the energy needed to generate it. But Smil again fails to explain the concept’s implications for renewable energy. 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. Nuclear power is thus the only plausible clean option for developed economies."

    This is what I meant by "energy density".  If someone wants to quibble with Shellenberger I would be happy to listen as long as the comments are focussed on the statements and not on the author himself.  I have no idea who Shellenberger is.

    nigelj, perhaps you can comment on this statement as to my claim that wind and solar power have a low energy density and therefore are not as efficient as fossil fuels (30 to 3.9) or nuclear energy (75 to 3.9).

    Admittedly these figures are for solar power and not wind power but I highly doubt that wind power is much more efficient that solar power.

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  49. NorrisM @50

    Schellenburger says "Moreover, all three previous energy transitions resulted in what’s known as “dematerialization”: the new fuels produced the same amount of energy using far fewer natural resources."

    Complete nonsense. Oil and coal are the result of the compaction of vast quantities of plant and small organisms so many natural resources. They may be dense but they are not small users of resources.

    And energy density is not the only measure of usefulness. Energy dense turns out to have difficult implications, like global warming and safety risks with nuclear energy.

    " By contrast, a transition from fossil fuels to solar or wind power, biomass, or hydroelectricity would require rematerialization—the use of more natural resources—since sunlight, wind, organic matter, and water are all far less energy dense than oil and gas."

    So what? This does not make sunlight etc in any way less effective at generating electricity. The fact that the market is choosing them proves they are effective and thats all that counts! Not some writers empty rhetoric.

    Sunlight comes free and is abundant. Anyone who sees using it as a problem is being idiotic.

    "Basic physics predicts that that rematerialization would significantly increase the environmental effects of generating energy. "

    Absolute nonsense. Show me a specific law or equation that predicts this. In fact density is nothing to do with the issues, less or more energy dense can all have environmental impacts, its entirely dependent on how the source is used, and pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere turns out to be a problem. Solar power has less environmental problems and the ones it does have are easy enough to resolve.

    "Although these would not be uniformly negative, many would harm the environment."

    Sunlight comes free and using it does not harm a thing.

    " Defunct solar panels, for example, are often shipped to poor countries without adequate environmental safeguards"

    That is a procedural problem that doesn't need to happen, and is a great deal less damaging than climate change. Old solar panel materials can be disposed of safely or recycled. The problem is political where certain political parties are anti recycling and anti environmental law.

    Schellenburger is not a scientist or physicist, and clearly doesnt understand what he's saying and claiming. He is a cultural anthropologist according to his wikipedia entry. I'm not dismissing all his views on everything, but the above mentioned are completely senseless.

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  50. Norrism

    The US Energy Information Agency defines effiency thus:

    "The heat rate is the amount of energy used by an electrical generator or power plant to generate one kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity. ... If the heat rate is 7,500 Btu, the efficiency is 45%. EIA only publishes heat rates for fossil fuel-fired generators and nuclear power plants." 

    If you do not know the meaning of a technical  term it is best not to correct people who do.  Nuclear and coal power plants are about 50% efficient, the rest of the energy used is released as waste heat.  Gas is a little more efficient.  Wind and solar do not produce waste heat so their efficiency is much higher, 90% or more.

    Renewables do have lower power density than fossil fuels and nuclear.  The Solutions Project (linked above) has addressed these issues satisfactorily.  

    Your claims that "What do you do with the massive wind turbines when they stop working or all the solar cells when they need to be replaced?" have already beenn addressed.  The turbines and panels can be recycled (currently they are reused in developing countries since they have not reached the end of their useful lives).  What do you do with the nuclear waste, including the reactor core?

    You remain a nuclear supporter!  I am amazed that any are left after Westinghouse declared bankruptcy.  It is generally a waste of time to discuss nuclear power and clogs up the board with incorrect information. I will only say that the bankruptcy of Westinghouse will stop any investment in nuclear for the foreseeable future.  I note that Brave New Climate (the most pro nuclear web site I know of) has not posted a new article supporting nuclear for over a year.

    The EROEI on nuclear you cite is not widely accepted.  Most currently used fossil fuels also do not have such high EROEI's.  Wind and solar have higher EROEI's than you claim.   Since you have not linked a citation I dismiss your claim as unsupported.

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