New Study: Rapid Transition to Renewable Energy Helps Global Economy, Prevents Worst Climate Impacts

We may not be living in the belly of the beast just yet, but we are most certainly now caught up in its jaws. In this case — the jaws of a politically and economically powerful set of fossil fuel interests that, unless they release their death grip, will condemn the world to a catastrophic future.

Fossil Fuel Interests vs a Benevolent Climate

Global warming in the range of 1.1 to 1.2 C above 1880s temperatures is already starting to have a destabilizing effect on many of the world’s nations. Seas are rising, the ice caps are melting, droughts, floods and wildfires are worsening, impacts to crops are growing more acute and unrest and inequality are on the rise. A related conflict over what energy sources will supply the world’s nations in the future has resulted in a sea change in the global political dynamic — setting climate change deniers representing fossil fuel special interests against honest scientists, renewable energy advocates, environmentalists and concerned businesses and citizens alike.

(Increasing rates of sea level rise, as shown in the most recent World Meteorological Organization report on The State of the Global Climate, are on track to render numerous cities, regions and island nations uninhabitable by the middle of this Century. This is just one of the many impacts of global warming. And continuing to burn fossil fuels makes each of these problems worse.)

This crisis and its related power struggle is the defining moment of our time. For its outcome will determine whether or not global civilization collapses in a series of worsening conflicts and climate calamities or if a new age of equal access and cooperation arises as more democratic and beneficial energy systems emerge and as nations decide to cooperate to come to the aid of those most hurt by the coming difficulties.

New Study Urges Rapid Deployment of Renewable Energy as Best Path Forward

We should be very clear that doom to human civilization by climate catastrophe is not inevitable. We have a shot at getting out of that trap if we escape the death-grip some fossil fuel industry backers now have on the global political and economic system. We can make it through if we take an alternative path. We can cut carbon emissions, make the global economy more resilient, and prevent the worst effects of climate change all at the same time. It will take a lot of concerted investment and effort. But it’s basically the conclusion of a recent joint study published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that pursuing a rapid deployment of renewable energy systems combined with ongoing efforts to increase energy efficiency can steer the world away from the worst impacts of climate change.

The study determined that rapidly adding renewable energy systems and pursuing increased efficiency would be enough to reduce global carbon emissions by a rate of 2.6 percent per year. It aimed to produce a best shot at limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius this Century. And though such a goal may still be overshot somewhat under the IEA/IRENA study’s recommended path, the overall results would be a dramatic departure from business as usual fossil fuel burning which would produce between 4 and 7 C (or more) warming this Century. This rapid transition to non carbon energy would reduce the severity of global warming consequences — giving space for people, cities and nations to adapt. Without this kind of transition, it is difficult to imagine how human civilization and large subsets of the vulnerable natural world could survive through 2100 or even through mid Century.

(IEA/IRENA report urges rapid cuts in carbon emissions by G-20 to prevent worst-case climate impacts.)

The study calls on the biggest global emitters and largest industrial nations to take responsibility for the bulk of this transition (represented by the G-20). And the heavy lift would come in the form of a 2.5 percent reduction in energy intensity per year to increase efficiency and a more than tenfold increase in renewable energy demand. The study calls for a 150 percent increase in renewable energy investments and a doubling of the present overall renewable energy adoption rate (120 to 150 gigawatt annual approx to 240 to 300 gigawatt annual approximate).

Energy Transition a Big Investment that Produces Major Benefits

Meanwhile, the industrial sector would need to lower its carbon intensity by 80 percent through 2050. Present global energy investments of 1.8 trillion per year would need to rise to 3.5 trillion per year to achieve these goals. Fossil fuel investment would decline while renewable energy investment would increase by 150 percent. Oil and coal use would fall as natural gas was used for lower emissions fuel switching before being phased out or entirely mated to carbon capture and storage (CCS) by mid century. The study notes that some investments in oil, gas and coal may be unrecoverable but that CCS could be deployed on a limited basis to strategically help soften the blow to certain market sectors even as overall use rates declined. The hard to access fossil fuels would be abandoned first while demand for the easier sources would be winnowed down later on in the period.

(Recommended policies would result in lower energy expenditures per household while both pollutants and emissions were dramatically reduced.)

By 2030, solar and wind energy combined, according to the report, would be the largest global provider of electricity. And by 2050, 95 percent of energy sources would need to be low carbon while 70 percent of automobiles would need to be electric. By 2060, the study envisions a zero carbon energy system.

Ironically, the economic benefits of this transition would be considerable. Such an energy transition alone would be expected to boost global GDP by 0.8 percent in 2050 (adding 1.6 trillion dollars to the global economy) and the total overall benefit to GDP would be 19 trillion. Overall, this is more than a 10 percent return on the 145 trillion invested over the period.

Serious Political Challenges Remain

It’s worth noting that the IEA/IRENA study presents its findings to a G-20 that is presently being strong-armed away from responses to climate change by the Trump Administration and Saudi Arabia. After apparent bullying by Trump, G-20 leaders are now afraid to even mention the term climate change. But Trump’s approach has not only spurred a backlash from scientists and environmentalists, a large subset of the business, civic and public policy leaders that often produce the basis for G-20 initiatives are speaking out against industrial nations moving in retrograde at the exact time that they should be moving forward. The leaders point out that leaving 19 trillion dollars on the table is nonsensical and that the climate crisis is already starting to harm both G-20 nations and the developing world (which has contributed comparatively little to the problem of climate change).

As a result, it appears that the fossil fuel interests backing Trump and that are the mainstay of petrostates like Saudi Arabia and Russia are producing a crisis of confidence among key G-20 constituents. It has become obvious to most of the non-fossil fuel world that an energy transition needs to happen and that it would be beneficial to pretty much everyone. But old interests are hanging tight on the reigns of power and delaying a necessary, helpful, and ultimately life-saving set of policy actions.

Links:

World Meteorological Organization Statement on Climate Change in 2016

Perspectives for the Renewable Energy Transition

Don’t Mention the C-Word

Business Leaders Urge G-20 to Put Climate Back on the Agenda

G-20 Urged to Return to Climate Agenda

First Ever IEA/IRENA Report

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74 Comments

  1. New BS from the GWPF:

    (Which makes a number of false claims I’ve decided not to support a link to –RS)

    Reply
  2. Apparently they’re trying to say the Earth cooled off after the 2016 El Nino (duh) and to imply that present temperatures are ‘normal’ (wrong — global temperatures didn’t cool off as much as expected and are still very far above normal holocene ranges with the overall trend climbing by about 0.15 to 0.2 C per decade which is lightning fast for a global temperature trend) all while attacking the good work being done by the WMO. Of course, they appear to have missed the February numbers which were 1.34 C hotter than 1880s averages according to NASA.

    All we need to know about the GWPF is that it’s a body that is run by Nigel Lawson — a well-known climate change denier who actively attempts to spread misinformation and confusion on the key issue of climate change. You could well compare him to Watts or Goddard — they’re basically the same ilk.

    For more:

    https://www.desmogblog.com/global-warming-policy-foundation

    Reply
    • Cate

       /  March 22, 2017

      Flat Earthers.

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  March 23, 2017

      The Lawsons are some of the most malign influences that exist in British politics I’m afraid, quite soulless individuals whose life and writings have been dedicated to enhancing the wealth of the few at the expense of the many and forestalling any action on climate bar a bit of coal to gas substitution. I no longer read a word they write but some folk are still taken in, whilst others trumpet their views because they know it serves their own narrow financial interests. On virtually every issue of note they stand resolute to impede progress and maintain or worsen the status quo.

      Reply
  3. Zyg Evershed

     /  March 22, 2017

    It seems pretty clear that the only successful way forward for the world is to rely entirely on electricity as an energy source, produced entirely by renewables – basically wind and solar, as hydro-electric and geothermal have pretty well already been exploited where possible. Although nuclear claims to be “green”, it seems ridiculous to go down that road when wind and solar are proving so successful, and so economical. Heating houses with electricity used to be expensive, but then along came air source and ground source heating, We switched to air source to get away from our oil-fired boiler,as there is no mains gas supply to our village, and we were amazed at the drop in overall energy cost. Isn’t it surprising (and wonderful!) that the renewable sources we need to reduce global warming are exactly what you would choose from an economical point of view. Now all we need are really good, cheap batteries.

    Reply
  4. Henri

     /  March 22, 2017

    Somehow the energy lobby has managed to coin a compelling argument. I know of people who think transitioning even partly away from coal, oil and gas will somehow wreck our economy. All this in a country which hasn’t or ever has had any coal, oil or gas reserves.

    Reply
    • So the global economy does need energy to function. But it doesn’t need fossil fuels. In fact, what most economists find is that the global economy performs better on higher energy efficiency and renewable energy sources over the long term due to a combination of factors (including lower energy costs which help to drive more beneficial economic activity). Fossil fuels are a strong lever for concentration of wealth as the assets are limited and can be easily cornered and monopolized. But this form of resource often causes harmful inequalities in economic systems that ultimately result in instability and conflict. There’s a reason why so many petrostates are dictatorial and oligarchical. Fossil fuel creates an unhealthy avenue to wealth and power that can easily devolve into a resource curse situation. Not all nations fall prey to it. But when you add in the harmful externalities — like climate change — it becomes pretty clear that fossil fuels are obsolete both economically and environmentally.

      Reply
      • Henri

         /  March 22, 2017

        Agree with everything you wrote there. I am just amazed how well the fossil fuel industry has spun their pr. We export all the fossil fuels we use and still many average joes are convinced we’d hurt our economy if we make even a partial transition. Luckily we have quite a sizeable hydro and slowly growing wind electricity but there’s a quite strong nimby effect there and many people who aren’t even disturbed by the mills are strongly against wind energy.

        Reply
        • Well, they’ve been doing PR for more than 150 years now. And they’ve gotten really good at cooking up misinformation. The old clean coal yarn began back in the 19th Century and they’re still using it.

  5. Greg

     /  March 22, 2017

    This pretty much says it all Robert. Put this along with Shakespeare and a few other classics in our cave, should we need one, for the future. The Washington Post has a great piece too:
    “Gulf of Mexico waters are freakishly warm, which could mean explosive springtime storms:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/03/22/gulf-of-mexico-waters-are-freakishly-warm-which-could-mean-explosive-springtime-storms

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Greg.

      Saw this earlier +3 to 4 C above normal along the Texas coast is pretty nuts. Considering all the available heat and those deep dipping fronts coming down with each warm air burst at the pole and you’ve got an explosive mixture. Good bird dogging by the weather gang as usual.

      Reply
    • Tweet scheduled on this, thanks.

      Reply
    • Robert E Prue

       /  March 23, 2017

      That article was interesting. My 86 year old dad lives in Mc Allen Texas. He likes hot weather,so he’s probably enjoying it

      Reply
  6. Keith Antonysen

     /  March 22, 2017

    Thanks Robert.

    A reference that relates to paleoclimate, it puts a big dent in the commentary put out by deniers in my view. It relates to the Barnes Ice Cap on Baffin Island being a remnant of a number of interglacials over a 2.5 million year period. The significance being that at the rate of breakdown it will not last.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320143856.htm

    Quote:

    “The results provide compelling evidence that the current level of warming is almost unheard of in the past 2.5 million years, according to the authors. Only three times at most in that time period has the Barnes Ice Cap been so small, a study of isotopes created by cosmic rays that were trapped in rocks around the Barnes Ice Cap indicated.”

    Reply
    • Thanks for this Keith. This is something I can work with…

      Reply
    • Greg

       /  March 22, 2017

      Context for humans:

      A reconstruction of a Paranthropus boisei made directly on the cast of a 2.5 million-year-old skull, discovered in 1959 at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

      Reply
      • unnaturalfx

         /  March 23, 2017

        Nice !! As close to the missing link as we can get I suppose . Very cool.

        Reply
  7. wharf rat

     /  March 22, 2017

    Just posted this on the previous thread.

    It’s Time to Give Air Quality the Attention It Deserves
    By: Bob Henson ,
    https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/its-time-to-give-air-quality-the-attention-it-deserves

    Reply
  8. Greg

     /  March 23, 2017

    The kinds of problems we hope to fill the future with:
    “With the bountiful hydro conditions expected this year and significant additional solar installations both in the form of central station and on rooftops, we expect to see significant excess energy production this coming spring,” CAISO CEO Stephen Berberich wrote in a memo to the grid operator’s board of directors. “Currently, the forecast is that we could have the need to curtail from 6,000 [megawatts] to 8,000 [megawatts].”

    https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/californias-flood-of-green-energy-could-drive-a-record-6-to-8-gigawatts-of

    Reply
  9. Erik Frederiksen

     /  March 23, 2017

    “We can make it through if we take an alternative path.” What are your thoughts on this?
    “In combination with previous findings, results suggest the permafrost region will become a carbon source to the atmosphere by 2100 regardless of warming scenario.” 1

    And from the NSIDC

    But if the Earth continues to warm, and a lot of permafrost thaws out, the Arctic could become an overall source of carbon to the atmosphere, instead of a sink. This is what scientists refer to as a “tipping point.” We say that something has reached a tipping point when it switches from a relatively stable state to an unstoppable cycle. In this case, the Arctic would change from a carbon sink to a carbon source. If the Arctic permafrost releases more carbon than it absorbs, it would start a cycle where the extra carbon in the atmosphere leads to increased warming. The increased warming means more permafrost thawing and methane release. 2

    Yet the study I linked to went on the say “that 65%–85% of permafrost carbon release can still be avoided if human emissions are actively reduced.”

    That would seem to disagree with the NSIDC which indicated the process is unstoppable at that point.

    1. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/3/034014/meta
    2. https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/frozenground/methane.html

    Reply
    • unnaturalfx

       /  March 23, 2017

      The question is where is that tipping point ?…..

      “I wish that what fell onto the sea ice and onto puddles could be studied. It feels greasy.”
      Jaypetee Akeeagok
      Grise Fiord
      And how much time do we have before its reached, these seem to be somewhat uncertain , I like to pay attention to the people that live there , The elders of these areas see the changes … Case study
      Discovered: 200-plus Arctic lakes which bubble like jacuzzis from seeping methane gas
      23 March 2017 ….Dec 17, 2013 – Rain? Rain??? Rain in the middle of December? In Siberia?’ … By this time of year, many Siberians expect to be fishing through thick ice on …
      Love the Siberian times for telling it like it is ,unlike U S A or my home Canada . (at least for the most part ) Perhaps these effects are stoppable , We better hurry , “models” have a habit of being off real time measurements and real life experiences . 2014 I lived in Terrace B C, 300 km or so from Alaska border , just so happened for the first time ever wells ran dry , or close to it .Lack of snow pack. Amazing !

      Reply
    • Despair is not an option, Erik. Response is necessary.

      We can probably expect 1-3 gt per year of carbon feedback by 2100 from the Earth System. And that’s something we’ll have to address — likely through a combination of land management and atmospheric carbon capture. The primary driver that determines the strength of that feedback is the present human carbon emission in excess of 10 gt per year. So the obvious and immediate threat is the human fossil fuel emission. Carbon feedback is a follow-on threat. And the strength of that feedback is determined by how much fossil fuel carbon we burn today.

      Reply
  10. climatehawk1

     /  March 23, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  11. Andy_in_SD

     /  March 23, 2017

    With the ground covered in snow, it is easier to see the air borne effluent in the region of the tar sands.

    http://www.arctic.io/explorer/8/2017-03-21/9-N54.68752-W117.63999

    Reply
  12. Andy_in_SD

     /  March 23, 2017

    To further Roberts previous post regarding India. Take note of the snow cover on the south facing versus north facing areas of the Himalayas.

    http://www.arctic.io/explorer/24/2017-03-21/6-N29.35107-E82.17773

    Reply
  13. wili

     /  March 23, 2017

    Where the sun refused to shine…

    Reply
  14. coloradobob

     /  March 23, 2017

    Reply
  15. coloradobob

     /  March 23, 2017

    Exxon Mobil can’t find up to a year of Tillerson ‘Wayne Tracker’ emails

    Exxon Mobil Corp. may have lost as much as a year’s worth of emails that former CEO Rex Tillerson used to discuss climate change risks and other issues under the alias “Wayne Tracker,” a lawyer for New York state told a judge.

    Link

    Reply
  16. coloradobob

     /  March 23, 2017

    China blames climate change for record sea levels

    SHANGHAI: Chinese coastal sea levels hit record highs in 2016, driven by climate change as well as El Nino and La Nina events, the country’s sea administration said.

    According to an annual report published on Wednesday by China’s State Oceanic Administration, average coastal sea levels in 2016 were up 38 millimetres compared to the previous year, and saw record-breaking highs in the months of April, September, November and December.
    “Against the background of global climate change, China’s coastal air and sea temperatures have soared, coastal air pressure has fallen and sea levels have also soared,” it said.

    It warned that high sea levels would lead to problems like coastal erosion as well as more frequent and severe typhoons.

    It added that vulnerable coastal regions needed to step up their flood prevention efforts by improving drainage systems and building dykes and dams. Underground water extraction also needed to be cut in order to ease the risk of subsidence.

    China’s coastal waters have risen 3.2 millimetres per year since 1980, higher than the global average increase over the period. Sea temperatures over the 1980-2016 period have been rising by an average of 0.21 degrees Celsius per decade.

    Link

    Reply
    • redskylite

       /  March 23, 2017

      Thanks for being ever vigilant Bob – seems the gentle linear Sea Level rise is no longer, that’s a worrying rise observed in China.

      Reply
  17. coloradobob

     /  March 23, 2017

    EXTREME WEATHER, VARIABILITY PRECEDED SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS WILDFIRES

    The conditions that led to devastating wildfires in the Southern Great Plains are consistent with weather patterns highlighted in a 2015 USDA report that looked at how growing seasons and the predictability of weather are changing around the United States.
    In Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, an unusual weather pattern led to fires that have ravaged land and destroyed thousands of cattle.
    “There’s a cycle of wetter conditions followed by immediately drier conditions on the plains,” said Dr. Jean Steiner, who manages the USDA’s Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Oklahoma. ………… The USDA weather-trends report, part of USDA’s Climate Hub Program, documented the recent history of extreme weather, which has been on the increase, and extreme variability in weather, which has also been on the rise.
    The fires in Kansas were called “the single largest fire in the state’s recorded history” by the Wichita Eagle, which has reported on the crisis extensively.
    The New York Times called the Kansas fires the region’s “Hurricane Katrina,” reporting Monday that more than 1 million acres of grasslands have burned. The fires have caused wide-spread cattle deaths and millions of dollars of damage to farms.

    Link

    Reply
    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
    • Robert E Prue

       /  March 23, 2017

      As a resident of Kansas, I was shocked by the intensity of those fires! I’ve worked at the local nursing home here in Coldwater for most of the past 23 years. Almost had to evacuate not only the nursing home but the town. The home in Protection (13miles west of Coldwater) was Evacuated. Some of them got to stay with us here. Today it’s about 15 to 20 degrees warmer than average and windy. There’s a chance for thunderstorms which brings rain.also lightning. Just now looked at drought monitor. The entire state is abnormally dry or worse. So are Oklahoma, Missouri, large part of Colorado. I’ve got the climate change blues

      Reply
  18. redskylite

     /  March 23, 2017

    This song was written in the Nuclear Protest days I believe, but seems just as relevant to Climate changes – my favourite version by Joan Baez . . .

    Reply
  19. Ryan in New England

     /  March 23, 2017

    Meanwhile back in America, the world’s most powerful third-world country, Maine lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that protects climate change deniers. It’s like we’re actively trying to be the stupidest country that has ever existed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/22/climate-change-denial-free-speech-protection-maine-bill

    Reply
    • Yeah, well. Some perspective needed. There’s no there there (no one has suggested persecuting deniers because of their beliefs, only corporate deniers misleading investors), so this bill is going nowhere. It’s just another thumb-in-eye item from far right wing. Not sure we can take the most extreme crap dreamed up by some jerky legislator (that happens to make good newspaper copy) as representative of the U.S.

      Reply
    • I wouldn’t take this yarn seriously. It’s already been litigated again and again that the protection to free speech does not cover lies and frauds. The climate change deniers may as well be claiming that burning your left foot off is beneficial to future health. The Constitution doesn’t protect against basically being wrong.

      Reply
  20. Spike

     /  March 23, 2017

    Encouraging article that points out Trump may meet resistance from red states benefiting from renewables http://energypost.eu/utility-experience-blows-away-concerns-about-wind-power/

    Reply
    • Renewable energy has been an extraordinary benefit to many regions already. As with healthcare, Trump is running up against a constituency that has been created by progress. Once people have experienced a better way of doing business, they’ll tend to fight to protect it.

      Reply
  21. Spike

     /  March 23, 2017

    More about US wind plans here. If Trump wants to destroy renewables he’ll have to actively sabotage them and damage folk in his own tribe. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/wind-is-killing-coal-in-America

    Reply
  22. Shawn Redmond

     /  March 23, 2017

    That extra moisture that resulted in a nice rise in snow pack is showing up in ways that a warmer climate can exploit much to our dismay. The record heat that keeps creeping in can quickly turn a surplus frozen water reserve into surplus flooding:

    Parts of Idaho have seen flooding and landslides over the last few days, caused by persistent rainfall and snowmelt. At least 2 homes have been destroyed and around 100 damaged.

    Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter has signed State Disaster Declarations for seven north central and northern Idaho counties currently managing flooding- related issues associated with snowmelt and ongoing precipitation.

    Residents in Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Kootenai, Latah and Shoshone counties are preparing for, or responding to, flooding, landslides and avalanches.

    Water levels along the Coeur d’ Alene River , the St. Joe River, and numerous other bodies of water within each of the counties in the state declaration, have risen dramatically, causing widespread flooding, mudslides, water over roads, damaged levees and flooding of homes and basements.
    http://floodlist.com/america/usa/rain-snowmelt-flooding-idaho-march-2017

    Reply
  23. Shawn Redmond

     /  March 23, 2017

    The situation in Peru isn’t improving either.

    http://floodlist.com/america/peru-floods-climate-change

    Reply
  24. wili

     /  March 23, 2017

    Jim Pettit just came out with another graph that shows how far extent anomalies have developed in the Arctic:

    Reply
    • wili

       /  March 23, 2017

      In his words:

      ” I’ve added a new graph to my stable, this one plotting year-to-date NSIDC SIE extent anomalies for the current year, alongside the ten previous years with the lowest average annual anomalies, plus decadal average lines for the 80s,90s, and 00s…

      This graph does a good job showing just how much more sunlight-absorbing open water there now is during those months with high solar insolation. A few days with less ice-covered water won’t change much, obviously, but when that extra sea surface is exposed to the summer sun for months on end, the cumulative effect becomes part of a powerful feedback loop.

      A few things really stand out to me:
      –the deep 2017 anomaly (red line)
      –last year’s recordsetting average anomaly (orange)
      –2012’s wild June-October plunge (violet)

      i suspect that 2017 will follow a trajectory similar to last year’s through June, then steepen a bit after that through the minimum, though as always there’s no way to know. Anyway, you can find it at my climate graphs page, or by the image URL.”

      http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1837.msg107376.html#msg107376

      Reply
      • unnaturalfx

         /  March 23, 2017

        Wow , thanks to the people who put the time into this . Nevens forum is a plethora of info and critical thinkers ,love it .

        Reply
  25. Under the Dead Sea, warnings of dire drought March 22, 201
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170322143139.htm
    Nearly 1,000 feet below the bed of the Dead Sea, scientists have found evidence that during past warm periods, the Mideast has suffered drought on scales never recorded by humans — a possible warning for current times. Thick layers of crystalline salt show that rainfall plummeted to as little as a fifth of modern levels some 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago.
    “All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer. What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models,” said lead author Yael Kiro, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

    Reply
  26. More lack of good news, on the natural resources necessary to transition to alternative energy.

    Warning of shortage of essential minerals for laptops, cell phones, wiring
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320110042.htm

    The researchers reviewed data and demand forecasts on the sustainability of global mineral supplies in coming decades. The study showed that mining exploration is not keeping up with future demand for minerals and recycling in and of itself would not be able to meet the demand either.

    At the same time, transitioning to a low carbon society will require vast amounts of metals and minerals to manufacture clean technologies and the researchers say society is not equipped to meet the additional needs for these raw materials.

    According to the research team, international coordination is needed on where to focus exploration investment efforts, what kind of minerals are likely to be found in different locations and hence, what kind of bilateral agreements are needed between various countries.

    Reply
    • Peak Materials Arguments are Overly Simplistic in the Context of Renewable Energy

      So this is a pretty simplistic peaking analysis that doesn’t take into account larger dynamics. If prices rise (and they probably will at some point), innovation and substitution will emerge to provide new supplies, new materials, new practices and to substitute alternatives. With renewables, substitution is easier than with fossil fuels, for example, and many materials can be recycled.

      Many of the arguments presented here only rely on present state of play for materials — for example carbon fiber is presently made from fossil fuels. But carbon fiber could be produced from captured atmospheric carbon or from biofuels. And, often, the view of contrained resources is not relevant as presented. In the same carbon fiber example, if fossil fuels are not being burned, then they are more readily available as a material for use in carbon fiber. The demand for fossil fuels as a material for carbon fiber is quite low (far less than 1 percent of current production). So identifying this as a contraint of serious concern (for, say wind turbine blades) is quite nonsensical.

      We already passed through one rare earth metals crunch — and manufacturers learned to use less or to substitute other materials until the price increases drove more mining efforts.

      The article cites copper as an issue — but copper is very easy to retrieve and recycle. And we can make a good case for a big copper overbuild in recent years that will tend to depress copper prices as the slack draws out.

      Study Worth Noting, But Overblows Constraints

      Of course, we always need to be aware of resource constraints. But the issue has tended to be overblown — seen by some as an insurmountable problem — which in the case of renewables is not valid.

      If there’s a worthwhile takeaway from this study, it’s in the concern that prices will tend to rise unless proper international systems of resource sharing and transparency are developed:

      “The study says that some progress in the right direction can be made quickly through the expansion of developing organisations, such as the United Nation’s International Resource Panel or the Intergovernmental Panel on Mining Metals and Sustainable Development. In the longer term it would be crucial to achieve greater transparency among nations, with measures such as global sharing of geological data and mechanisms to protect mineral deposit ‘finds’.”

      In this context, the study highlights some of the challenges of providing a stable supply chain for renewables and points toward ways the supply chain can be better secured. Which is a good exercise that will reduce volatility. But if you were to read this as ‘renewables are doomed because of resource scarcity’ then you’d be drawing the wrong conclusion.

      Reply
  27. Vaughn Anderson

     /  March 23, 2017

    Robert and dedicated commenters: Thanks for your insights into working towards preventing the worst effects of global warming. I appreciate your informative articles with supporting evidence.

    One thing that concerns me most about nuclear is that nuclear plants could be the target for terrorist attacks or an attack by a rogue country especially in the form of EMP bombs. We could then be dealing with how many “Fukushimas” all at once? I think reducing nuclear dependency and improving and “hardening” the electrical grid and critical equipment removes a considerable amount of vulnerability and reduces the chances that we would have a terrorist attack of this magnitude in the first place. Many thousands of “nearby” power generating locations adds to everyones’ security vs the opposite with nuclear power.

    Reply
    • Hello, Vaughn.

      I think this issue is coming up as a bit of a red herring. The IRENA/IEA study recommended a rapid increase in renewable energy production (wind/solar). Nuclear energy was a footnote. The primary drive was for clean power sources.

      Reply
  28. June

     /  March 23, 2017

    Northern Lights: Large-Scale Solar Power Is Spreading Across the U.S.

    Once largely confined to the sunny Southwest, utility-scale solar power plants are now being built everywhere from Minnesota to Alabama to Maine. Aided by plunging costs and improving technologies, these facilities are expected to provide a big boost to U.S. solar energy production

    http://e360.yale.edu/features/northern-lights-utility-scale-solar-power-spreading-across-the-us

    Reply
  29. coloradobob

     /  March 23, 2017

    How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2016

    In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.’s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial — the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.

    Link

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, Bob. Good to have a verification of what we’ve been concerned about here. The TV broadcast media is still very dark on climate change. And this just feeds into climate change denial and failure to respond to climate threats.

      We cover ISIS very well. But ISIS would probably not have become a problem if it weren’t for the systemic impacts produced by climate change. More people are hurt or displaced by climate change now than by ISIS or any other terrorist group. And the impact of changes to the world’s climate on the people of Earth is now likely greater than the impact of warfare the world over.

      Failure to cover this critical issue is a moral failure. The 4th estate should do better.

      Reply
  30. rogerboyd99

     /  March 23, 2017

    Nice to see an analysis without the “overshoot then suck all the extra CO2 up later” assumptions. Very informative about the sheer scale of policy actions needed, great piece of work. It is still being a bit optimistic though:
    – Assumes other actions to significantly reduce non-CO2 GHGs, so impact of those policy changes not included
    – Assumes no positive feedbacks, such as albedo and increased natural carbon emissions, that would serve to substantially remove the available carbon budget
    – Assumes land use nets to zero, again with policies not included (doesn’t jive well with the policy news out of Brazil etc)
    – Assumes a “frictionless” economic model (the usual for such modelling) where a rapid transition is seamlessly incorporated, rather than being disruptive to economic growth
    – Does not take into account the financial market reaction to the loss of booked carbon assets, just assesses the cost of Arcady developed infrastructure. A real problem for classical economic models that don’t integrate the financial sector (Steve Keen does a great job of showing this)

    The usual assumption of 3% annual economic growth, rein that back and the emissions cuts get deeper.

    One other concern, the last IPCC summary for policy makers stated a limit of 450ppm CO2 equivalent, and stated that at the time we were at 430ppm equivalent. When I look at the NASA numbers we are closing in on 490ppm eq and were above 450ppm eq when the IPCC report was published. Different methodologies or my confusion? Hopefully the latter, or there never was a carbon budget when the last IPCC report was published.

    Reply
    • 1. Reduction of fossil fuel use has an impact on both CO2 and CH4 emissions. Combined, these account for about 475 ppm CO2e of the present forcing. Because CH4 is a short term residence gas, cuts to fossil fuel burning put negative pressure on the current CH4 overburden. So the framework takes account of the vast majority of ghg related forcing. Of course farming and land use changes will need to address the smaller carbon emissions sources.
      2. This is an issue we raise here frequently. But if you reduce fossil fuel burning, you reduce the ultimate rate of feedbacks coming from the Earth System.
      3. This criticism is basically splitting hairs. Which present economic modeling includes friction?
      4. More hair splitting. Markets tend to adjust rather rapidly as we’ve seen with coal.

      The IPCC limit for RCP 4.5 assumes 450 ppm CO2 and approximate 550 ppm CO2e at peak. You’re conflating CO2 and CO2e values.

      What I will say (and what I alluded to in the post above) is that the RCP 4.5 target which most identify as what’s needed to limit warming to less than 2 C this Century probably produces 2.5 C warming this Century and about 5 C warming long term. That’s my opinion based on an understanding of past climates and of larger Earth System sensitivity. So it’s probably true that IPCC is a bit too optimistic when it comes to allowable carbon limits for the 2 C boundary. And Earth System feedbacks in the range of 10 percent to 30 percent amplifiers for the human forcing this Century erode that boundary limit further. If we get to 450 ppm CO2 and 550 ppm CO2e and we don’t have the methane fall out and we add another 35 to 105 ppm CO2e from the Earth System, then we’re probably looking at 2.6 to 3 C by end Century. It’s worth noting that you need a considerable carbon response from the Earth System to replace the methane fallout rate. So this projection is probably slightly on the pessimistic side.

      That’s pretty bad. But it’s nowhere near as bad as 4-7 C+.

      I think that the main goal right now should be to transition to renewable energy as fast as possible. Beating the IEA/IRENA targets would be a good idea. But if we set up this policy, then we have a good path forward and we can add in more ambitious targets as we go.

      Reply
  1. Climate, nuclear, news to 24 March | Nuclear Australia
  2. The week in nuclear and climate news « nuclear-news

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