The Choice Before us is Urgent: Sans a Swift Switch to Renewables, Dangerous Climate Change May Be Imminent

The world right now is facing some very serious challenges.

The first is that the globe will probably rocket well past peak CO2 levels of 405 parts per million by April and May of this year. This jump has been pushed along by a baseline massive human CO2 emission and assisted by a record ocean warming event (El Nino) in the Equatorial Pacific. Overall, this new yearly record will be more than 55 parts per million higher than peak ‘safe’ levels of 350 parts per million recommended by some of the world’s top climate scientists.

405 ppm the Keeling Curve

(Global CO2 levels will cross well above the dangerous 405 parts per million threshold during April and May of 2016. During recent years, record or near record carbon emissions have exaggerated rates of atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation. But did the world see emissions reductions during 2014 and 2015 and will those reductions be sustained? Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Such high atmospheric CO2 concentrations likely haven’t been seen in 15 million years. If CO2 levels (and the levels of related heat trapping gasses) remain so high for extended periods or continue to rise, then more and more dangerous and disruptive changes to the geophysical system of the Earth are in store. Global temperatures, the driving force of many of these changes, are already hitting +1.1 C above 1880s averages during 2015 (and +1.57 C during one month of 2016!) and will continue to ramp higher for decades and centuries unless those excessive greenhouse gas concentrations start to fall.

In 2016, we see massive losses in Arctic sea ice, rapid warming in the northern polar regions of the globe, increasing instances of extreme weather, increasing rates of glacial destabilization, increasing rates of sea level rise, increasing instances of mass casualty producing heatwaves, increasingly rapid rates of ocean health decline (ocean anoxia and acidification), increasing stress on ecosystems around the globe, and a number of dangerous tropical viruses spreading up from the lower Latitudes.

This is the world that economic dependence on fossil fuel based energy sources has given us. It’s a more difficult and dangerous one to live in than that represented by the milder 20th Century climates. And, over time, that difficulty and danger grows worse so long as the fossil fuel burning continues and concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gasses do not fall.

Lifting More Than Half the World Out of Poverty With Fossil Fuels Is a Climate Nightmare in the Making

Related to this increasingly difficult challenge of climate change is the fact that much of the world today still lives in poverty — unable to access many of the benefits of modern life. But nations around the world support policies that will lift billions out of this impoverished state. Providing billions with access to the services so many of us in the developed world take for granted. How this transition happens will have a dramatic impact on the health of the climate of our world and the health and safety of so many of the individuals living here. In other words — will the undeveloped and developing world choose to access new, renewable energy sources and deny the use of dangerous fossil fuels even as the developed world makes a responsible energy switch? Or will everyone basically double down on the climate-wrecking fossil fuels and risk wrecking all of human civilization in the process?

It’s a critical choice for our near future. Just how critical was recently highlighted in a new paper published by researchers at the Universities of Griffon and Queensland in Australia. This paper shows that if fossil fuels are used to meet projected energy demand growth over even the next 15 years, then 2 C worth of global warming will be locked in by as early as 2030.

Climate Risks IPCC

(Climate risks threat analysis provided by the IPCC shows greatly ramping impacts as human forced warming crosses the 2 C above the late 19th Century threshold. Note that warming above 1 C — a range we are now starting to explore — pushes most risks into moderate and some risks toward high. Image source: IPCC.)

For reference, a 2 C level of warming above 1880s values would place severe and increasing stress on many Earth Systems vital to maintaining a climate state conducive for the functioning and survival of human civilizations. To many scientists, it’s considered a tipping point beyond which catastrophic consequences become much more likely to unfold. To be clear, any warming beyond 1 C this Century is probably unsafe if you want to maintain stable coastlines and prevent serious climate shifts around the world. But we’ve already crossed that threshold and what we’re engaged in now is trying to prevent a growing number of the worst effects of human-forced warming from being realized.

To this point, the new study focused on predicted energy demand growth curves and related global economic growth projections and extrapolated projected emissions based on how growth was achieved — either through renewable energy use, or fossil fuel based energy use. Using these metrics, the study found that industrial CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions would hit a very steep curve unless projected energy demand was filled by renewable sources.

Study co-author Hankamer recently noted to The Guardian:

“When you think about statements like ‘coal is good for humanity’ because we’re pulling people out of poverty, it’s just not true. You would have to burn so much coal in order to get the energy to provide people with a living to get them off $2.50 a day that [temperature rises] would just go through the roof very quickly.”

Study researchers supported a kind of creative destruction that involved a rapid switch away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. This kind of switch would be precipitated by a removal of the 500 billion dollars in annual global subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and a related transition of those subsidies to renewable energy sources. The authors noted that such a shift in global policy and capital support from fossil fuels to renewables would generate significant and revolutionary change in the energy markets as well as provide real hope of meeting projected demand growth with non fossil fuel energy sources.

Study co-author Wagner noted:

“If we swapped those subsidies globally, of course we could have rapid improvement and deployment of renewables to cover our shift from fossil fuels. You’re pushing a huge amount of capital into a different sector that requires an enormous amount of growth, so you would actually see a great deal more growth from putting it into renewables than providing it for fossil fuels.”

Hankamer also highlighted the need for serious work on batteries and a related full transition to electrified transportation. He noted that tough challenges still existed for aviation, heavy machinery, and shipping. Energy demand sources that may require biofuels, hydrogen or a combination of these with hybrid high efficiency and low weight battery technology to continue functioning and eliminate their portion of emissions. But as a fraction of the global greenhouse gas contribution, these three represent a smaller portion than electricity generation and internal combustion engine based land vehicle transportation.

The key, according to the researchers, was getting the incentives right and that involved a wholesale shift of capital and subsidy support away from fossil fuels. The point being that even if a fraction of increased global energy demand is met by fossil fuels, then the climate situation rapidly worsens. We just have to get off fossil fuels wholesale. But the new study researchers clearly point out — the renewable option is there and we should take it.

Is Global Coal Use Declining? If So, It’s a Trend That Needs To Be Rapidly Reinforced.

To this point, there already appears to be a number of early signs of a structural shift in many of the global markets away from coal — which is one of the highest emitting fossil fuels — as an energy source for base electricity generation.

As such, a current center of gravity for global carbon emissions increases and potentials for reduction is China. Overall, China alone now produces almost 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. And a lion’s share of these greenhouse gas emissions come from China’s more than 2,500 coal fired power plants. But lately, recent reports coming out of China seem to indicate not only a slow down in the rate of emissions growth — but a reduction in the amount of total emissions overall.

China CO2 Emissions per year by source

(A new study by Glen Peters estimates that China’s greenhouse gas emissions may have fallen by 1.9 percent during 2015. This potential reduction is thought to have been precipitated by a shift away from coal use and toward a larger adoption of renewable energy. Image source: Glen Peters via Climate Crocks.)

In part, this reduction in coal use is due to a wholesale shift in China’s growth policies. A shift that focuses more on services and less on heavy industry. Clean air policies have also been put in place aimed at scrubbing up a terrible air quality situation for the country. Policies established to constrain the burning of coal at currently active coal fired plants. As a result, coal-fired facilities are increasingly under-utilized in China. A situation that has resulted in some sources stating that any new coal-fired facility build-out represents a ‘coal bubble’ for China.

But perhaps the most important trend is the fact that rates of renewable energy build-out are faster in China than anywhere in else in the world. In total, more than 17 percent of China’s massive energy infrastructure is now taken up by renewables. And each year these energy sources represent a larger portion of the new added generating capacity. By the end of this year, China is expected to have 120 gigawatts of wind energy installed, 43 gigawatts of solar, and 320 gigawatts of hydro. This total of nearly half a terawatt of installed renewable capacity is expected after a 21 percent or 35 gigawatt addition to China’s already large wind and solar generation fleets.

Finally, China appears to be a leading indicator of a larger global shift away from coal. A recent report out from Carbon Brief found that more coal fired power plants around the world were being cancelled than built. A trend that, if it continues and is coupled with a rapid rate of renewable energy adoption, provides a glimmer of hope that global greenhouse gas emissions will start falling off sooner rather than later.

Emissions Reductions Findings Remain Uncertain. Cutting Coal Use Alone is Not Enough to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change.

To be very clear — these are very preliminary findings. And there is some recent reason to doubt that current emissions reporting from China is entirely truthful. Any fudging of numbers by China would somewhat alter current greenhouse gas emissions assessments. And any related shift in global policy back toward coal, while continuing to build out oil and gas production and consumption based infrastructure would rapidly re-assert the dangerous rates of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions growth the world has seen over the past few decades. In addition, all current indicators show use of natural gas and oil continuing to expand. And without coordinate reductions in these other two big carbon emitters, a floor will be set on how far greenhouse gas emissions can fall through the, admittedly positive, apparent shift away from coal alone.

As the Australian scientists note above — you can’t really have much hope of a milder impact from climate change unless you rapidly replace all new growth-based infrastructure with renewables (and related non-carbon emitters). Any new fossil fuel based infrastructure is basically making an already bad problem worse. And continued wholesale reliance on fossil fuels locks in catastrophic climate change over very short time horizons.

Links:

Dangerous Global Warming Will Happen Sooner Than Thought

The Keeling Curve

Entering the Middle Miocene

IPCC

China Coal Use Declined in 2014

China Greenhouse Gasses May Have Already Peaked

China Unveils Low Carbon Growth Plan

China’s Coal Bubble

China to Increase Wind and Solar Capacity by 21 Percent in 2016

China Burns More Coal Than Reported During 2000-2012

Statistics From China Say Coal Consumption is Down

 

 

 

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79 Comments

  1. wili

     /  March 16, 2016

    Thanks again for an articulate plea for sanity. I just wish your vital message had broader exposure. I did my little part by being the first to share this on fb. ‘-)

    Reply
    • Thanks Wili. I worked very hard on getting this one right. Maybe too hard. But the messaging needs to be sharp, clear, truthful, and as context-oriented as possible.

      Reply
  2. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    This dovetails nicely with this topic –

    U.S. Electricity Sales Dropped In 2015 For Fifth Time In 8 Years

    In the past year, total U.S. electricity sales fell a remarkable 1.1 percent. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that this is the fifth drop in the past eight years.

    Electricity demand growth has been flat for a decade while GDP is up nearly 15 percent. While weather plays a role in whether demand goes up or down in a given year, state and federal energy efficiency policies deserve a lot of credit for the long-term flattening of demand, as we’ll see.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/15/3759755/electricity-sales-dropped/

    Reply
    • Ailsa

       /  March 16, 2016

      And also probably demand destruction through average people becoming just so damned poor they can’t afford it😦 GDP can mask all sorts of ills.

      Reply
      • Ailsa

         /  March 16, 2016

        Something has got to break: Gail Tverberg explaining how growth in GDP is dependent on growth of debt, which funnels money away from the average pockets into those of the elite.

        Reply
      • There’s a lot going on in the US right now. We have new energy efficient light bulbs, more efficient appliances, and residential solar growing at a considerable rate. All cut power consumption from utilities as recorded by EIA.

        Reply
      • Yes, our solar installation did great things for our energy usage. Still not down to net energy zero, but close.

        A friend of ours has solar, and drives a Chevy Volt. She says her solar installation is actually generating more electricity than she’s using, and her lifetime gas mileage on her Volt is around 250 miles to the gallon of gasoline, not counting the electricity from her solar panels. Her commute has recently lengthened a lot, but she is still getting over sixty miles to the gallon of gasoline.

        It’s all possible in California due to net metering laws. As a community, we should do everything in our power to bring net metering to every state in the U.S., and make it permanent, along with tax credits for new solar installations.

        Reply
      • wili

         /  March 17, 2016

        The basic point of her talk seems pretty solid here. But I would be very careful about taking Gail’s pronouncements without a grain (or perhaps a few cups!) of salt.

        Reply
      • Ailsa

         /  March 17, 2016

        Wili – I’ve picked up that others also have some reservations about GT, but have not been able to work out what they are, or how to navigate her presentations. Maybe you could help me out? She seems to have a great deal of knowledge, but maybe she has a ‘bias’ or similar I should look out for? Thanks

        Reply
      • wili

         /  March 17, 2016

        Here are the three main problems I’ve had with her presentations and articles in the past (I haven’t followed her recently, so maybe she’s become more sane on these):

        1) She has been saying for a number of years now that we are 6 months away from total economic collapse. Now there are plenty of reasons why at any moment that might happen, but at some point one should at least temper those words by including uncertainty. I have friends who have made rather foolish decisions based on believing her statements on this.

        2) She constantly denigrates alternatives as mere ‘ff extenders’ since so far most alternative energy sources have themselves been made with power from ff sources. This gets picked up and repeated over and over again by otherwise reasonable people, even though it is stupid for blindingly obvious reasons that I hope are obvious–As alternatives become a larger part of the energy mix, more and more of the energy used to produce them will come from those alternatives. The failure to see such an utterly obvious fact makes me suspicious that she is intentionally sewing doubt where none need exist (or at least not _that_ level of doubt).

        3) And what made me even more suspicious, she admitted getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Ecuador from Chevron, then came back, surprise surprise, praising Chevron and disparaging anyone who said they did anything wrong in Ecuador (where there is a long-running law suit against the company). To her credit, she did admit to being paid. But that she couldn’t see that this money might put her judgment on the subject in some doubt by others made me and other question her judgment in general. (This was back in the Oil Drum days, probably at least 5 years ago. They archive everything just about, so you should be able to find the relevant documents on this, unless they have been expunged.)

        It seems to me that there have been a number of other things that caused me to give pause, even a kind of crypto-denialist stance, but I don’t have these are the main points that come to mind.

        Reply
        • Gail is a renewable energy contrarian who, like many of the Oil Drum bloggers, had ties with fossil fuel related interests. Her anti-growth stance is really less about solutions than putting out negative information, usually with a fossil fuel related source, on renewable energy. The bent seems to be to convince people that the only option is conservation — which is a flat untruth and, given a general lack of major conservation options in many settings, amounts to an appeal to apathy.

          Like Kunstler and McPherson, she’s a member of what I have termed the inevitable collapse ‘doom’ peddlers. In other words, she’s been predicting the ‘inevitable collapse’ of economic systems for some time and has been proven wrong on many occasions (as Wili notes). Her politicization of debt is also a far-right political stance that tends to ignore other base issues or even how economic systems generally function. Such views tend to be deflationary and result in the kind of wealth concentrations she often verbally disparages.

          I would put this under dangerous and false ideology. Reader beware.

      • Ailsa

         /  March 17, 2016

        Thank you for the replies, I’ll certainly follow up The Oil Drum archives. And sorry Robert if I’m posting links to unhelpful sites or too-long talks.

        Reply
  3. LAM78

     /  March 16, 2016

    Interesting to see if Chinas CO2 emissions actually is declining. But two things are of concern: India, Iran and Brazil. First, India should be of most concern as they sooner or later will be the new China wrt CO2 emissions unless magic happens. Imagine 1 billion people to get a higher materail standard…

    About Brazil I don’t know much but they have been pinpointed as a growing economy before. If that still holds the question is if they will increase their CO2-emissions. Finally, Iran. While Iran may not be a polluter they are now starting to export oil again. That should increase the emissions if they try to collect as much money as possible to get their economy more in balance after the sanctions were lifted.

    Best, LAM

    Reply
    • Three, not two😛
      Brasil’s already a big polluter, mostly because of deforestation. CO2 here is mainly produced by changing soil usage (nearly 60% of the country’s emission). Our eletricity is mainly hidro (about 75% of the grid), and for transportation, during the 70’s our country developed an extensive methanol and biodiesel iniciative, that once reached 80% of our transportation (talking about car, buses and trucks).

      Both of these good starts are in trouble now.

      Drought has been hurting hydroeletric production, first in the Southeast and now in the Northeast of the country. That added thermoeletrics using fossil fuels, mainly natural gas from Bolivia, to our grid. These thermoeletrics produce dirtier AND costier eletricity (eletricity bills have more than doubled in these last two years, contributing to the economic recession), but the actual government loves them and big and polluting hidroeletric options, because of non-economic reasons. Even with Federal government outright oposition (non-economic reasons again), eolic energy is gaining momentum though, and has doubled their participation in the grid last year.

      Also by “non-economic reasons”(sheer corruption, being investigated now), the ethanol and biocombustibles program was ripped to pieces in those last four years, and only about 30% of the fleet is using ethanol now. These numbers could change quite fast with good policies (almost 90% of the car fleet is flexible combustible, meaning that the cars can use ethanol or gas. Our ethanol is sugar-cane based and while not completly carbon neutral, going near that, certainly nearer than gasoline).Good government is a rare commodity around here, though, and despite the current political turmoil in Brasil, I don’t expect actual action in that front in the next 2-3 years. That may be good, though, momentum is on the side of renewables and if government opposition diwindle, things will be better.

      As far as the “material leap” goes, we’re in quite better situation than China or India, on average, EVEN with the current economic crisis (we’re in the third year of recession here). For example: using UN standards for comparison (and dodging that pesky problem of shifting baselines), Brasil has LESS people in risk of starvation than the USA does (both proporcionally and in actual numbers. Brasil’s population is a bit smaller than the USA, but not much). Before the recession, Gini numbers here were going down, and a huge parcel of the population had become “medium class” (the C class, middle in an ABCDE classification, and more important, with an lifestyle that’s dignified and livable, was about 50% of the population five years ago. That conquest is being erased also, but not completly).

      Reply
  4. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    Stop Attacking Scientists for Reporting the Truth on Climate Change (Op-Ed)

    by Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS; Chris Field, Carnegie Institution and Stanford University | March 16, 2016 11:58am ET

    http://www.livescience.com/54067-misleading-political-attacks-distort-climate-science-truth.html

    Reply
  5. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    West Greenland heatwave this week –
    http://www.wettergefahren-fruehwarnung.de/GM/tdiff2m_01.htm

    Reply
  6. Robert in New Orleans

     /  March 16, 2016

    Once again Mr. Scribbler your eloquence with the written word is impressive. I am humble in the presence of the master.

    Reply
    • I promise to keep doing my best for you guys! That one took a long time to bang out, though.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  March 16, 2016

        I have been here for some time now , and I can say your growth , and your readers growth is amazing. Poor Joe Romm’s site is under attack by spammers, and trolls.

        The key here is that readers offer new information , And not silly debates.
        Having said that, here’s a clip for everyone who wants to curl-up in a fetal position , and suck their thumb.

        Reply
  7. dnem

     /  March 16, 2016

    Excellent and important post, Robert. I will harp again on something I’ve raised repeatedly here. If carbon sinks begin to lose strength, the challenge becomes that much tougher. It seems likely to me that many sinks will become less efficient over time. We can’t look only at the emissions side of the equation.

    Reply
    • Oh, we don’t. But if I cast too wide of a context in each post, I’ll be writing 10,000 words. The issue is avoiding the point where those stores are hit too hard. The consensus is that it starts to happen in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 C — with levels above that being very bad. We see some milder response now.

      In any case, getting that base forcing from the human side down as quickly as possible is absolutely critical. There’s really no way you can deal with the problem without it.

      Reply
      • dnem

         /  March 16, 2016

        I didn’t mean to imply that you ignore it. And of course we can only really attack the emissions side and as you say, we need to do it hard and fast! My point was more that these modeling studies tend to assume that the planet’s sinks will carry on into the future undiminished. I’d like to see some scenario analyses that explicitly consider sinks becoming less efficient over time.

        Reply
  8. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    Another Environmentalist Was Murdered In Honduras And Activists Are Enraged
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/16/3760762/environmental-activist-killed-in-honduras/

    Reply
  9. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    Could houses soon be built using CARBON DIOXIDE? CO2ncrete building material is made with gas captured from power plants
    Process takes lime and combines it with carbon dioxide to make material
    The new building material, CO2ncrete, is made with 3D printers
    So far the construction material has only been produced at a lab scale
    Next step is to scale it up to make it ten times bigger and put it to the test

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3495031/Could-carbon-dioxide-used-build-HOUSES-New-building-material-gas-captured-power-plants.html#ixzz436cMDmPN

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  March 16, 2016

      The failed idea we could pump these gases back into the ground is folly. The idea that they are resources, is a 21 century idea.

      Reply
    • Hi Colorado Bob-

      Yes, the idea of green cement is a great idea, but the devil so far has been in the details.

      Consider lime, for example. The process most often starts with limestone (calcium carbonate), which is then calcined at high temperature to produce quick lime (calcium oxide) by driving off CO2. Notice that this step produces CO2. If the quick lime is then used to combine with CO2 to get calcium carbonate back again, no net CO2 is absorbed.

      There are deposits of native lime – calcium oxide – as a mineral, but I think these are rare, and result mostly from coal seam fires and altered limestone embedded in volcanic rock. There is also a mineral – portlandite- that consists of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), that can be converted into calcium oxide by heating it to drive off water. But I think that portlandite is also pretty rare.

      Personally, I think that to produce a CO2 absorbing cement, we would have to start with basalt rock, which contains calcium, iron and magnesium bound up in silicates. The first step would be getting the metal ions out of the silicates. Next we could combine the calcium, magnesium, and iron ions with CO2 to form carbonates. Finally the carbonates could be part of a carbon sequestering cement.

      None of that is easy, and the reactions are generally very slow – not like industrial chemical processes as we know them now. And the cement produced would not be Portland cement – it might resemble the old Roman cements or the new Geopolymer cements more than Portland cement.

      So, it’s a great idea. The amount of cement we use as a society is even a rough match to the amount of carbon we would have to store. But producing a cement that does all the things Portland cement does as well and as cheaply as Portland cement, while simultaneously sequestering carbon is not easy.

      And the building trades are understandably very slow to adopt new technology. Understandably, builders don’t want to build condos or high rise buildings using cement that might fail in 20 years from some presently unknown mechanism or poorly understood interaction with other building materials.

      Reply
      • It might be easier to produce carbon negative bricks or cement blocks than carbon negative cement. With bricks or cement blocks, the manufacturer has more control over the exact conditions under which the material hardens. But, storing significant amounts of carbon would require a huge number of blocks. If you figure that each CO2 storing block weighs 10 kilograms and is 10% carbon, each block would store a kilogram of carbon. So to store a billion metric tons of carbon would require a trillion blocks. A billion metric tons of carbon is a little more than the CO2 from all U.S. coal fired power plants per year. At 2000 blocks per house, that could build 500 million houses per year, or some mixture of roads and houses, maybe. Still, that’s a lot of building material, and it would take a huge number of production lines producing in parallel to produce such a flood of blocks.

        The advantage of storing CO2 in situ in basalt formations, for example under the Pacific Ocean floor in the Juan de Fuca plate off the Pacific Northwest, is that moving the huge volumes of material needed to be moved to make a significant dent in the problem becomes manageable, I think. CO2 pipelines are efficient ways to move the huge quantities needed, especially if the net flow through the pipeline is downhill.

        Compressing the CO2 to the supercritical state in an oxyfuel Biomass (BECCS) power plant conversion would take a lot of energy, though. And producing O2 for oxyfuel combustion also takes energy. But I think myself that by using the higher temperatures and higher Carnot efficiency from oxyfuel (instead of air fuel) combustion and adding topping cycles it is possible to increase efficiency enough to pay for the CO2 compression and oxygen production. The net result would be a more complex power plant capable of producing a pure stream of compressed CO2 for deep injection, but with the same efficiency as today’s coal fired power plants or greater.

        Reply
      • Reading the above, what we really need is Portland cement, but starting from a different raw material than the limestone and clays used as raw material now. I suggested basalts and feldspars as starting materials above, the same raw material used in studies of carbon sequestration by mineral carbonation by Klaus Lackner and his collaborators:

        CARBONATE CHEMISTRY FOR SEQUESTERING FOSSIL CARBON
        http://www.350.me.uk/TR/Hansen/Lackner.pdf

        I don’t know if that is possible, but if we could produce Portland cement or something very close to it from a material other than limestone, that would avoid the initial calcining step that drives off CO2, and make net carbon sequestration possible in Portland cement. I need to re-read the above paper in detail, myself.

        Reply
      • Oh, that’s interesting. Thanks, Robert. Didn’t know about the stuff in your link, and still don’t know much about it. It looks like something really new.🙂

        Reply
      • Hi Robert-

        About you link – the iron based concrete in your link uses waste steel dust as a raw material. The supply is limited, and energy is already added to the material by the steel making process to reduce it from iron oxide into metallic iron.

        So, it’s new, but what we really need is a process that can take large quantities of minerals in their native state and turn them into a cement (or a strong hard inert carbonate material that could be used as a concrete aggregate) with a low input of energy and no emissions of CO2.

        Here’s a review of mineral carbonation of CO2 from power plants, contained in a master’s thesis, as of 2010.

        http://greensand.live.pangaea6.nl/content/user/1/files/2010%20Torrontigue%20Assessing%20the%20Mineral%20Carbonation%20Science%20and%20Technology.pdf

        If one of these processes produced a material useful as a cement, or even a hard insoluble material useful as a concrete aggregate, our carbon negative concrete scheme would be off an running. Combine a carbon negative aggregate with Portland Cement, and the overall concrete could be at least carbon neutral.

        Reply
  10. Mblanc

     /  March 16, 2016

    This is good timing, the IEA seems to be making positive noises about global emissions. It’s always good to have some crumbs of comfort among the bitter gruel!

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/surge-in-renewable-energy-stalls-world-greenhouse-gas-emissions?

    Reply
    • Mblanc

       /  March 16, 2016

      and when I say bitter gruel, I mean the generally bad news from the Earth system.

      Reply
    • Cate

       /  March 16, 2016

      I agree, but I think many will find this confusing—will assume that this means our CO2 levels are flattening out, so no more worries. But this is not what it means. Or am I confused on that? We still have years ahead of us of rising CO2 in the atmosphere , as recorded at Mauna Loa, do we not, because of the time lag, even if we cut emissions to 0 tomorrow?

      Reply
      • If we cut CO2 emission to zero now (cold turkey), CO2 levels would fall for a while as the oceans drew in some of the overburden and then stabilize. This assumes an ECS of 3 C and an ESS of 6 C, and that permafrost carbon stores would emit enough to keep atmospheric carbon about level. We don’t have enough earth system sources now to keep CO2 levels rising at first. However, the response from warming this Century could (under a somewhat greater level of climate sensitivity) bump them up a little in the 100 year timeframe (10-35 ppm) and a bit more over the long term.

        (Edited for clairity and taking account of climate sensitivities outside the 3 C ECS and 6 C ESS range)

        Reply
      • wili

         /  March 17, 2016

        “If we cut CO2 emission to zero, CO2 levels would fall for a while as the oceans drew in some of the overburden” Not according to MacDougall et al, as I understand it:

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/Macdougall.html

        Reply
        • Wili —

          If you look at MacDougall’s graphs, which include permafrost carbon feedback, you get an initial fall of 5-20 ppm CO2 as the oceans draw down excess carbon initially and then rebalance with a cut to zero human emissions. Over time, and under higher climate sensitivity scenarios, you could get a long tail of rising CO2 levels from permafrost feedback that adds +25 to +40 ppm over a very long timescale (top line in MacDougall’s graphs). Under lower climate sensitivities, you get more initial CO2 drawdown from the oceans before stabilization.

          My opinion is that there’s a high confidence that the 3 C ECS and 6 C ESS sensitivities are correct but that the feedback range is likely between MacDougall’s top and middle lines. Of course, there are other wild cards to consider.

          So how is what I described above ‘not according to MacDougall?’

      • wili

         /  March 17, 2016

        You’re right that there is a slight dip in CO2 levels, but I agree that we would then follow a line probably somewhere between his high and mid ranges, which gradually rise for at least a couple centuries, which is not what I would call ‘stabilizing.’ And as the discussion in the piece I linked points out, the MacDougal article is likely optimistic for a number of reasons pointed out in the last couple paragraphs. And of course the article was from a few years ago now, and we’ve dumped even more CO2 into the system, like over 100 billion tons.

        But yeah, there would probably still be a very short dip from ocean uptake, especially if it didn’t coincide with an El Nino year. Of course, it’s all pretty academic, since there is essentially no way that we are going to completely stop all emissions any time soon.

        Reply
        • It’s pretty simple, Wili. As I explained above, you get a short term dip in the 10-20 year horizon due to ocean drawdown of some of the atmospheric overburden, a mid term ‘stabilization’ with a far slower annual rate of CO2 accumulation on the order of 0.1 to 0.2 ppm CO2 per year due to feedbacks, a long term tail off in the rate of accumulation, and a related long term rise to around 425 to 450 ppm. Then stabilization at a new equilibrium about 500-1,000 years from now before a slow tail off.

          That assumes, as I noted above, that carbon stores remain relatively tame and implied ESS is in the range of 6 C. These are Hansen numbers. Some call them optimistic, some do not. My view is that the 3 C ECS, 6 C ESS is most likely to be accurate. It also assumes no response in the form of human land use change or other forms of human activity based atmospheric carbon capture.

          For your own statements, I’d be careful not to mistake nuance for lack of understanding. Based on your above statement, it’s pretty clear to me you didn’t give MacDougal a full read nor did you understand the implied climate sensitivity in my own conjecture before posting your comment. Also, as with any other climate sensitivity estimation, you need to be wary of double-counting.

  11. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    Steve Bare at Zome Works 40 years ago –

    ” Our descendants will curse us for burning the most valuable molecule on Earth in low grade heat engines. “

    Reply
  12. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    We need oil . Not to go drive to the beach. but to build the complex future ,

    We need save every drop we find.

    Reply
  13. Cate

     /  March 16, 2016

    PM Trudeau will have a choice to make soon: between his energy policy and his trade policy. We are watching you, Mr Trudeau.

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/03/16/analysis/decision-time-trudeau-climate-commitments-or-lng-legacy

    Reply
  14. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    I have been thinking about oil for years . If we burn it in our cars, it’s gone. If we make the future with it , that;s another game.

    Reply
  15. It seems that not only Chines coal is in decline, but now the largest American coal company may file for bankruptcy as well. Not that I would shed a tear for them as Peabody is on the forefront of climate denial. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/16/coal-miner-peabody-energy-bankruptcy

    Reply
  16. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    We need oil. Not burn it , but to build it.

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  March 16, 2016

      Oil is not bad. it is a gift , millions of small things died to make your home warm, and your car go.

      Now, we better , time to change.

      Reply
  17. Colorado Bob

     /  March 16, 2016

    Time to blow a gasket on the Grapevine.

    Reply
  18. Colorado Bob

     /  March 17, 2016

    My liver has turned into a steamer trunk. It’s amazing how little I have to offer.

    Reply
  19. Colorado Bob

     /  March 17, 2016

    Buckle your chin strap. Hell is coming to breakfast.

    Reply
  20. Colorado Bob

     /  March 17, 2016

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  March 17, 2016

      There we are , seeking some form of courage, some form of hope.

      Reply
      • Just heard this song for the first time at the start of this year, a week before we lost Glen Frey. A fantastic protest song against mindless consumption. And so true about California. Thanks for posting it here.

        Reply
      • Hi Bob. Your words made me think of poetry of the type I used to read and write in times of social unrest and exile.
        I rearranged some that kind of fits a familiar form — in not quite haiku form.

        ‘CB’

        Time to blow a gasket on the Grapevine.
        My liver has turned into a steamer trunk.
        It’s amazing how little,
        I have to offer.
        Buckle your chin,
        strap. Hell is coming,
        to breakfast.
        Millions of small things died to make your home warm,
        Now.
        Time to change.
        There we are, seeking
        some form,
        of courage,
        some form of hope.

        ###

        Reply
    • Wharf Rat

       /  March 17, 2016

      Something’s different, something’s changed
      And I don’t know what
      Even the old folks can’t recall
      When it’s ever been this hot and dry
      Dust devils whirlin’ on the first day of July
      It’s a hundred degrees at 10:00 AM
      Not a cloud up in the sky

      We hardly had a winter
      Had about a week of spring
      Crops are burned-up in the fields
      There’s a blanket of dust on everything
      The weatherman is sayin’
      That there ain’t no change in sight
      Lord, I’ve never been a prayin’ man
      But I’m sayin’ one tonight

      Reply
  21. It’s the ratchet effect – once springtime photosynthesis gets going in northern latitudes, CO2 levels will drop below 400 again, but this may be the last time it does that. Northern and boreal forests, even where they are not overcut, are severely climate stressed already. There’s massive amounts of beetle kill in both Pine and Spruce forests in Canada and Alaska, probably Russia as well, so those forests are dying off in a major way, giving up their stored carbon now.

    Reply
  22. climatehawk1

     /  March 17, 2016

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  23. Listen for my interview with Australian Ben Hankamer re the struggle to balance progress out of poverty, declining ability to use fossil fuels, personal energy growth and population growth – next week on Radio Ecoshock.

    Reply
  24. I must share this with you’s
    Do you know David Wasdell? One of the very few who looks at the climate system as a whole. His conclusions are based on what happened before on our planet.
    http://www.apollo-gaia.org/harsh-realities-of-now.html
    Long but well explained presentation named “The Harsh Ralities of Now”

    Jack

    Reply
    • Mark from OZ

       /  March 17, 2016

      Many thanks Jack!
      A ‘keeper’ to study in detail that’s for sure.
      This section below is what needs to be launched to ‘full screen view’ (to prevent distraction) to everybody or BAU will prevail.

      “It is imperative that the implicit changes are taken as the basis for current decision-making.
      We have to stand at the bar of history and say “We knew the implicit change resulting from
      what we are doing to the planet was this. We had only observed a tiny amount of it, but we
      knew this lot was coming and was inherent in what we had done.” Do we dare to stand at the
      bar of history and say that we knew that these levels of temperature change, these levels of
      level change, were going to be the outcome of our strategic decision-making, yet refused to
      take them into account? How dare we?!”

      Like many, I deeply lament our current predicament where decisions of enormous ecological magnitude are often controlled/influenced by those who believe only in finance; IRR, ROE, ROI, ‘shareholder value’ and the like who mistakenly conclude that a millennium is just 1000 ‘financial’ years. As a student of the natural sciences and their truth-based honesty, I’ve always bristled at the ridiculous reverence expected from the P & L crowd and still maintain that their deification of ‘present value’ is just a cologne to mask wanton greed and will eventually be exposed as being fos..

      Reply
    • David’s climate sensitivity numbers are rather high — in the range of 7 C + for ESS. He uses end of the last ice age as a baseline. But those periods are quite noisy for various reasons. I don’t think we have a precedent for that in the science.

      Reply
  25. Climate battle bears early fruit as global energy emissions stall

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ad0f58fa-eabe-11e5-bb79-2303682345c8.html

    Reply
  26. wili

     /  March 17, 2016

    Leland made good points wrt net metering above.

    Ultimately, though, small solar power providers–residential and commercial, need to get together and form unions or coops, and then exert bargaining power over the major utilities. Net metering should not pay providers just a flat amount, but should be based on what the cost of electricity would be if they had to get it elsewhere at that time. This would greatly increase rates for solar, since generally their highest production is on warm sunny days when lots of people are using AC. If the utility had to go on the market to get electricity at those peak use moments, it would be very expensive.

    If a union or coop of small solar providers collectively bargained, threatening to disconnect from the grid at those peak use moments if they weren’t provided something like what the going market rate for electricity is at that time, suddenly solar electric power would become very rumunerative indeed!

    Reply
  27. The corporate media are spinning Tuesday’s primary results as a big loss for Bernie Sanders. But Bernie picked up 271 pledged delegates to Hillary’s 371, and only very narrowly lost Illinois and Missouri. Bernie has 825 pledged delegates to Hillary’s 1139, and 2383 are required to win. Super delegates are free to switch sides if Bernie should pull ahead, I think, although most have pledged to Hillary.

    I think Bernie is still in the running. Bernie Sanders campaign people say he might win several of the next primaries.

    We need Bernie, if we’re going to turn the corner on climate change, I think. Certainly Hillary is far better than Trump, but we really need Bernie Sanders.

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html

    Reply
    • The Bernie Sanders campaign also raised something like 42.7 million dollars last month, and beat Hillary Clinton in fundraising for the second month in a row. He’s got enough money to stay in the race until July, and he’s said he’s not going to quit.

      I totally would not count this guy out. He’s what we need to fight global warming, and we might just get him, if people can start admitting reality instead of denying it.

      Aren’t we all tired of denial, yet?

      Reply
  28. – From an atmospheric river bringing moisture not far from the equator — to a very water logged Bossier Parish, LA — USA.

    Reply
  29. ‘President Trump’ as big a threat as jihadi terror to global economy – EIU

    Republican frontrunner could damage trade and increase Middle East instability if he wins US presidency, say analysts

    The prospect of Donald Trump winning the race to the White House has joined China’s slowing economy, the Greek debt crisis and Britain’s EU referendum as a major threat to the global economy, according to a respected risk analysis firm.

    The Economist Intelligence Unit said the Republican frontrunner could prove a dangerous world leader, damaging global trade, stirring up trouble with Beijing and adding to instability in the Middle East.

    The EIU placed the possibility of Trump being sworn in as US president next January sixth on their latest list of global threats, as serious as a resurgence of jihadi terrorism, and only marginally less risky than the collapse of the eurozone.
    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/17/president-trump-sixth-list-major-threats-global-economy-republican-trade-eiu?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Version+CB+header&utm_term=162396&subid=8553955&CMP=ema_565

    Reply
  30. – MM: … Just as in society at large, there are people in science who are risk averse and risk takers. There has been a recent discussion about scientific reticence and how scientists will err on the side of conservatism. They will err on the side of Type I errors instead of Type II errors. And that may not be serving us very well on issues like climate change.

    PB: But it’s socially very safe to do.

    MM: Absolutely.

    Reply
  31. Harquebus

     /  March 20, 2016

    Renewables = false hope.
    The laws of physics dictate that renewable energy collectors, in their lifetime, do not return the “total” energy used in their manufacture, construction and maintenance.
    Renewable advocates only delay doing what is required and that is population reduction.
    Before anyone goes off and demands proof, every time I try to do so, Robert deletes my posts so, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
    Reports stating otherwise do not factor “all” the energy required or else the authors have a financial interest in perpetuating the renewable energy myth.
    Other than that, I pretty much agree with everything else that Robert says.

    Reply
  32. I agree 100% with the urgent need to phase out fossil fuel burning as quickly as possible. Investments in fossil fuels can only make a bad (climate) situation worse still. However, I believe it’s dangerous to rely solely on renewable energy and to suggest that they can replace fossil fuels without tackling current wasteful energy use and consumption patterns. Firstly, we need to be really careful about the definition of what’s renewable. Right now, chopping down forests and burning the wood for electricity, or flooding forests and other ecosystems for mega hydro dams are officially classed as renewable even though they result in very high CO2 and methane emissions respectively. Secondly, expanding genuine renewable energy like wind and solar must go hand in hand with strong measures to curb energy use, including energy efficiency and energy conservation. See this article I wrote a while back: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27392-abundant-clean-renewables-think-again .

    Reply
    • If you look at the problem in microcosm, and from the point of view of the most utilitarian means to reduce carbon emissions, I absolutely agree with everything you’re saying. However, the reason I push full renewables replacement of fossil fuels is that currently it undercuts the political power of those who are actively opposing any response. Of course, all renewables are not equal as a means of reducing carbon emissions. However, the vast majority of global carbon emissions are coming from fossil fuel burning — not hydro dams, not biofuels. These are secondary emitters.

      From a policy standpoint, putting a tax on all carbon emissions by volume is an excellent disincentive to emit. However, the powerful political block of the fossil fuel special interests has managed to effectively prevent such policy measures from being inacted in most major emitting regions. So if you think about the problem strategically, it’s best to support the rapid build out of fossil fuel replacements — which erode the political force behind policy inaction — and then push for carbon pricing as the fossil fuel interest powers recede.

      To be very clear, cutting fossil fuels entirely out of the transportation, agriculture, and power generation sectors reduces global emissions by 70-80 percent so long as most fossil fuels are replaced by wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and batteries. And due to the fact that additional biomass and hydro are limited and more expensive than new wind and solar this is the most likely scenario so long as new renewable energy sources are supported.

      So the messaging of renewables vs fossil fuels is a win for us given the current state of play on the energy and political fields.

      Reply
  1. The Choice Before us is Urgent: Sans a Swift Switch to Renewables, Dangerous Climate Change May Be Imminent | 2rhoeas3

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