George Monbiot Just Attacked a Key Solution to Climate Change — Why?

In 2015, the Electric Power Research Institute partnered with NRDC in producing a report assessing the ability of electrical vehicles to reduce global carbon emissions. Their findings were as profound as they were simple:

Electric vehicles and a clean grid are essential to arresting climate change

(Adding electrical vehicles to the energy and transportation mix considerably reduced global carbon emissions. In addition, the batteries on which the vehicles are based provide essential, low-cost means to store renewable based electricity coming from wind and solar power. Image source: NRDC.)

The findings also represented basic common sense.

The start of major atmospheric increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gasses began with the burning of fossil fuels. Rapid global warming subsequently followed. Human burning of wood, cow-based agriculture, and destruction of forests prior to that time may or may not have marginally increased atmospheric greenhouse gasses and tweaked global temperatures. But the simple truth is that from the end ice age interval about ten thousand years ago until fossil fuel burning began in the 18th Century, the primary gas contributing to global warming — Carbon Dioxide — had remained in a tight range between 265 to 275 parts per million (methane concentrations increased by less than 100 parts per billion, and nitrous oxide levels only increased by about 10 parts per billion).

The big hit obviously came when humans began digging up coal, oil and gas, putting them into machines, and burning these materials en-masse. And today we are adding 10 parts per million of heat trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every 3-5 years. An increase that possibly took all the plowing, burning, domesticating, and breaking of the Earth by humans ten thousand years to achieve by harmful land use activity alone. Meanwhile, methane and nitrous oxide levels since the commencement of fossil fuel burning around 1750 have rapidly risen by 1,200 and 60 parts per billion respectively.

(Levels of heat trapping carbon dioxide remained relatively stable for thousands of years until the commencement of fossil fuel burning by humans. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

And these dangerous carbon emissions in today’s energy, agriculture and manufacturing systems all ultimately come down to one chief source — fossil fuel burning. If there’s a carbon emission from the making of steel, for example, it mostly comes from burning fossil fuels. If there’s a long lasting and harmful carbon emission coming from industrial agriculture, it’s in large part coming from the burning of fossil fuels. And if there’s a carbon emission coming from our use of machines, it’s due entirely to the internal combustion engines within them that burn fossil fuels.

In all of the human system, the vast majority of carbon emissions come from oil, gas, and coal. And all of the most dangerous, old carbon emissions come from this source. In other words, if you want to stop climate change, you have to deal with the real elephant in the room. There is no bargaining. No dissembling. ERPI and NRDC are right. You’ve got to switch your energy sources and your engines if you’re to have any hope of dealing with human-caused climate change. Electric vehicles and a renewable grid are, therefore, essential. They’re our escape hatch. They’re our main path out of future climate change hell.

(It’s clear where the additional heat trapping gases are coming from — old fossil carbon sources. Video source: NASA.)

The big, heavy lift all just boils down to halting fossil fuel burning as soon as possible. This is our best hope, our best means, of removing future carbon from the atmosphere — never burning the fossil fuels at all. Leaving it all in the ground.

New Solutions vs the Old Gridlocked Dialectic 

Notably, there are many conceptual, if difficult to enact, ways that we as human beings could achieve this end. Over the past half century at least, wise environmentalists have been calling for a renewed focus on living simply. On public transport. On re-building close-knit communities fractured by rampant consumerism and marketeering. On using less to do more.

This goal was admirable, helpful. But, for various reasons, it has, so far, largely failed to address the larger climate crisis. This is not to downplay the helpful successes of a number of cities and communities around the world who have provided walkable communities, added bike lanes, advanced public transport, and helpfully re-strengthened local ties. Yet despite these helpful advances, about 80 million fossil fuel powered vehicles are produced each year. So we obviously have to address that larger issue as well.

One reason that this helpful environmental movement has not grown its influence more is due to the noted and powerful strength of the fossil fuel industry in manipulating governments and the public interest. If calls by greens for restraint were loud and compelling, they were often drowned out by fossil fuel advertising dollars and legislation that increasingly leaned toward protecting harmful economic interests. Another reason was that these goals, though noble, did not speak to the present economic reality in which many people lived their daily lives. Technology based on fossil fuels enabled many to do more, make more, raise their families up from poverty — but at a terrible long term external cost that was often invisible to the users.

The resource curse thus became ingrained in many regions outside the political reach of environmentalists as these consumers were captured in a new, generational, economic reality dominated by fossil fuel use. And there was much reason to lament and resist this ultimately harmful reality — even if the message of blaming a consumer that was essentially shackled to fossil fuel use and sometimes ineffectively pushing toward a less and less clear vision of efficiency and simplicity without also providing broader access to alternatives was a proposition destined for failure.

(The price of a solar panel from 1977 to 2013 had dropped from 77 dollars per watt to 74 cents per watt. In 2017, solar panels now regularly sell for between 25 and 35 cents per watt. This provides a significant escape hatch to present fossil fuel burning. Low cost wind and emerging electrical vehicles add to this escape route. Image source: Clean Technica.)

This dialectic itself described a systemic downward spiral from which there appeared to be no escape. But recently, the very technological and economic advantages represented by fossil fuels have begun to seriously erode. The cost of non-fossil-fuel based energy systems — wind and solar primarily — plunged to less than that of traditional coal, oil, and gas. Meanwhile, the desirable machines that burned the devil’s juice of oil, began to trade in their black internal combustion engine hearts for far cleaner electrical engines and batteries. Drive systems that could easily be mated to clean energy and remove fossil fuels from the energy picture entirely.

This new opportunity for clean energy to leverage the same strengths that led fossil fuels to prominence not only threatened fossil fuels. It threatened that old dialectic. And some purists were unable to reconcile the reality of far more benevolent new technologies able to replace fossil fuels with the older ideals and conflicts.

Public Transport and Bikes are Great. But why Attack Electrical Vehicles if They are also Helpful?

And it is for this reason that we can understand, a bit, where George Monbiot is coming from when he appears to falsely equate electrical vehicles with fossil fuel based vehicles. A car-less society has long been a big ideological push for George and other environmentalists. The car itself, his reviled icon of harmful consumerism. And, yes, removing cars would achieve a significant reduction in UK carbon emissions if such a thing were even remotely politically possible. Those driving on grid-locked Great Britain highways can certainly have sympathy for a generally helpful reduction in car use. In adding more widely available electrified, renewable-based public transportation. In making bike transport more widely available.

But ultimately, it appears to this observer that George is counter-productively attacking the wrong object. That George is unintentionally committing more harm than good. In other words, as a practical matter, Great Britain is highly unlikely to be able to achieve the goal of a car-less society any time soon. But if it does, eventually, reduce the number of its ‘iron chariots’ as Monbiot suggests, the electrical vehicle will probably have played its part in helping speed that transition.

(Increased adoption rates of electrical vehicles will reduce oil consumption and at the same time erode the power of industries that have for so long blocked green initiatives like public transportation, ride sharing, and walkable and bikeable cities. Why throw water on a much-needed energy revolution that would be very helpful by providing air in the room for green causes? Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Going back to the old dialectic, we find that the primary political opponents to societies with greatly reduced automobile use per person are both traditional automobile manufacturers and fossil fuel companies that rely on ICE based vehicle transportation to support oil demand. Add electrical vehicles to the mix and you reduce fossil fuel demand, thus eroding one pillar of that political power base.

This, by itself, might not be enough to break the larger environmental log jam. But consider the fact that the primary leaders of the electrical vehicle movement are companies like Telsa and countries like China. Tesla itself is more an energy company than a vehicle company. The company produces energy platforms and renewable energy applications. Batteries, solar, and electrical vehicles are its stock and trade. High quality vehicles that primarily do not rely on the same levels of mass production that traditional, single stream automakers have relied on. China, meanwhile, is mass-producing electrical vehicles in an effort to clean its air. Neither are as shackled to the notion of everyone owning a vehicle as traditional automakers now are. And to this point, Tesla itself has identified ride sharing as a strategic goal to enable people to access road transport without owning a vehicle — thus considerably reducing the number of cars per person and helping to enable Monbiot’s ultimate goals.

The net result in bringing EVs in to compete with ICEs will be not only reduced carbon emissions, but a change in the economic based power dynamic within the UK and in other countries. And the economic interests of disruptive new companies like Tesla will be divergent enough from those of traditional automakers to allow the breaking of the old grid-lock at the political level. In such a new dialectic, the voices of those like Monbiot could be even more poignant and helpful as we pursue a path to greater sustainability — so long as they do not shrilly attack the various forces that are enabling their empowerment to achieve those very ends.

Links:

NRDC

The Keeling Curve

NASA

Clean Technica

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

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176 Comments

  1. climatehawk1

     /  August 4, 2017

    Retweeted.

    Reply
  2. The next logical question is why has Robert Scribbler attacked the sometimes successful movement to shift public investment and road space from the private automobile to cycling and transit? Protected bike lanes are now starting to become standard practice in city cores, and starting to penetrate even some suburbs. Same for bus lanes – see for example http://theprovince.com/opinion/eric-doherty-lets-follow-seattles-lead-and-create-designated-bus-lanes.
    These positive shifts are happening more and more, despite ongoing attacks from so-called allies. Is this not also a key solution to climate change?

    Reply
    • Hello Eric,

      Thank you for advancing public transportation and helping to deal with the climate crisis.

      In any case, I am sorry to see you mis-characterize my communication in such a fashion. In other words — any reasonable person would understand that defending electrical vehicles does not equate to attacking public transport.

      I absolutely support BOTH electrical vehicle based transport and expanding access to public transportation as solutions to climate change. I merely lament the fact that some environmentalists have made false equivalency arguments equating EVs to ICEs when numerous studies have shown that EVs are absolutely a part of the larger solution.

      I sincerely hope we can have a better, more inclusive, dialogue that does not hinge on absolutistic arguments or single-issue focus going forward.

      Reply
    • wpNSAlito

       /  August 5, 2017

      “The next logical question is why has Robert Scribbler attacked the sometimes successful movement to shift public investment and road space from the private automobile to cycling and transit? ”
      Citation needed.

      Reply
  3. Tesla’s solar roof just came out as well. Still a little spendy, but if you figure in the 30% tax credit, plus those from some states and local utility companies, they bring it much closer to the cost of a tile or slate roof.

    https://www.tesla.com/solarroof

    Also, check out the video at the bottom. It took me a little bit to realize those are not other solar panels they are testing against, those are normal terracotta and slate roofing tiles. something to think about with the uptick in hail and wind storms lately.

    They are also offering a lifetime guarantee, so instead of a 20-30 year roof, you have the lifetime of your home. That is assuming that you and your house are still here after 20-30 years, of course…

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  August 4, 2017

      When you figure your roof will last the duration of your house and your electric car, a result of two orders of magnitude reduction in the number of parts and the reduced wear and tear of an electric motor, will essentially last as long as 1 million miles, or as long as you need it, then the savings are tremendous in the long term both from an environmental and personal cost perspective.

      Reply
      • wpNSAlito

         /  August 5, 2017

        The reference to gridlocked private vehicles reminded me that, unlike combustion vehicles, my Leaf does not burn fuel idling (0MPG). Of course, the cats have to find someone else’s hoods to nap on in the winter. 🙂

        Reply
      • Jim

         /  August 5, 2017

        Good points Greg and Titania. Elon Musk has said that the glass roof on the Model 3 allows easier robotic access to the interior. Considering Musk’s penchant for reusability (Space-X booster), his early battery swap program, and his interest in sustainability leads me to wonder if the car is not actually being designed to be easily refurbished and outfitted with the latest battery pack. This is pure conjecture on my part, but doesn’t seem unreasonable at least for dry climates where rust is not a real factor in vehicle lifespan. The complexity of modern ICE vehicles makes a similar move prohibitively expensive for ICE cars.

        The used batteries could be configured into a home storage battery where the discharge rate is not as demanding.

        Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  August 5, 2017

      Our house is 19 years old..and we are going to be needing a new roof in the next few years..and are planning on a Tesla roof. I can’t wait.

      Reply
  4. Does not it look like the CO2 level has been rising very slightly for four or so thousand years and then suddenly spiking? Is that slow rise real? and/or is there any significance to it? I am not in any position to figure that one out and it likely is irrelevant to our current situation and your excellent sets of information. But curious minds would like to know. Could the atmosphere really be that sensitive to the presence and activities of however many human beings have been around over the historical period.?

    Reply
    • Human agricultural activity and wood burning may have influenced the slight CO2 rise post ice age. Or it simply may have been the carbon system bowing out in the post warming period due to larger, warmth-based, access to carbon stores. Of course, the big signal begins with fossil fuel burning.

      Reply
    • Greg Simpson

       /  August 6, 2017

      See that little dip in carbon dioxide two or three hundred years ago? Possibly caused by the regrowth of forests after the American Indians were nearly wiped out.

      Reply
      • Yes, Thank you. Just found a little book by William F Ruddiman – Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, which seems to address all this set of observations and ideas. I’ll get to it this rainy Sunday morning.

        Reply
      • That dip coincides with the start of the Little Ice Age (1650 to 1850) which would have increased the size of the global carbon sink by cooling forests and the ocean surface. Outside of human fossil fuel burning, it probably would have been the start of a longer term ice age cooling trend at the end of the Holocene.

        Ironically, large scale forest regrowth did not occur until cultures largely shifted away from wood burning in around the late 1800s timeframe (which was not, as is asserted above, caused by the loss of Native American cultures, but a shift to different energy systems). This post Native American regrowth/carbon reduction notion is not likely to be accurate given the various other larger factors at play and due to the fact that regrowth occurred even as atmospheric carbon levels were rising.

        Reply
  5. wili

     /  August 4, 2017

    I owned one of the earliest affordable electric cars ten years ago, but even then I told people that I thought it would be far better if we moved completely away from cars altogether.

    So I don’t think the two positions need to be in conflict, and I regularly challenge people who spout the usual bad arguments against EVs. But I also have and would challenge people who say or imply that just moving the existing fleet of autos is anywhere near sufficient for the kind of change we need to make. (As far as I can see, this does not put me at odds with rs’s position, but he should correct me if I misunderstood his case.)

    In this and the Wallace-Wells debate, I do bemoan that folks who are basically on the ‘same side’ are bickering with each other about what are ultimately details, compared to the enormity that we agree on–that we all have to get off of fossil-death-fuels pronto if we are hoping to have a mostly livable planet for our selves and the next couple generations, at least.

    Reply
    • wpNSAlito

       /  August 5, 2017

      “I owned one of the earliest affordable electric cars ten years ago, but even then I told people that I thought it would be far better if we moved completely away from cars altogether. ”
      Aye, my sister’s 17-year-old grandchild–like many of his peers–has no interest in owning a car. (BTW, myself and my other 4 siblings are childless.)

      Reply
    • Yes. Of course, public transport also needs to be electrified, some euro countries are powering there PT from significant clean energy. Cycling itself has a host of other benefits. None of this is either or.

      Reply
    • Bob

       /  August 6, 2017

      Willi, I concur. Monbiot is outspoken and essential in the battle between greed,stupidity and rational thought; as are Robert and many others on this forum.

      Reply
    • I think Monbiot is on the side of planet earth, which is why he sees EVs as not really helping the wider goal of reducing environmental damage of all kinds (“The resources required to manufacture them – and the volume of mines and ports and processing plants that wreck rare habitats around the world – might even intensify.“), though he’s misguidedly (IMO) accepted the apparent logic of nuclear energy.

      Robert, I think, is using arguments of hope here: “if it does, eventually, reduce the number of its ‘iron chariots’ as Monbiot suggests, the electrical vehicle will probably have played its part in helping speed that transition” or “Neither [Tesla and China] are as shackled to the notion of everyone owning a vehicle as traditional automakers now are“.

      Electric car makers want to sell more cars and increase their profits. Electricity companies want to sell more electricity and increase their profits. Renewable infrastructure producers want to sell more and increase their profits. We’re not even contemplating a changed paradigm, probably because we know that is currently impossible and, with such an acceptance, aren’t we accepting an impoverished planet for future generations anyway? Why is climate change such an important topic for those here that it overrides all other environmental problems that arise from our lifestyles and our desire for infinite growth?

      Of course, whatever we write here will have no impact on what happens out there in the economy but it’s god to get these things off one’s chest.

      Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 6, 2017

        Hi Mike-

        “Why is climate change such an important topic for those here that it overrides all other environmental problems that arise from our lifestyles and our desire for infinite growth?”

        It’s because fossil fuel use creates such a huge greenhouse heating side effect, I think. Greenhouse heating from fossil fuel use exceeds the useful heat of combustion by 100,000 times or more.

        Ken Caldiera, Stanford, Time scales and ratios of climate forcing due to thermal versus carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL063514/full

        “For example, the global and time-integrated radiative forcing from burning a fossil fuel exceeds the heat released upon combustion within 2 months. Over the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cumulative CO2-radiative forcing exceeds the amount of energy released upon combustion by a factor >100,000.”

        It’s this tremendous greenhouse heating side effect of fossil fuel use, far outweighing the benefits from the useful heat of combustion of that fossil fuel, that makes global warming the most important environmental issue of all time, I think.

        We can build roads and mines and harbors without endangering the biosphere, if only we avoid this tremendous fossil fuel greenhouse multiplier effect, I think.

        Monbiot’s arguments are non-quantitative, and so are yours.

        Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 6, 2017

        Most people aren’t going to stop driving, Mike.

        Fighting global warming is the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal. Electric cars avoid most of the tremendous greenhouse gas multiplier effect of fossil fuel use, unlike combustion vehicles. With combustion vehicles, every mile driven and every tank of gas causes eventual heating 100,000 times or greater than the actual heat produced by the vehicle.

        Electric vehicles are a big part of the solution to global warming, as most experts and common sense tells us. Greenhouse gas emissions to produce electric vehicles will only decline as we wring more and more fossil fuels out of our technology.

        The perfect is indeed the enemy of the good, in this case. I applaud the positive steps that governments around the world are taking to encourage a switch to electric vehicles.

        Reply
        • Leland Palmer

           /  August 6, 2017

          To clarify – the useful work (transportation) performed by the vehicle is around 20 percent of the heat produced by the combustion vehicle. So the ratio of greenhouse heat produced to useful work performed by the vehicle is about 500,000 to 1 – or greater.

          This heat produced will be spread out over thousands of years. But in the first year, the heat ratio is about 6:1, according to Caldiera. The greenhouse heat to useful work ratio would be greater, maybe 30:1- in the first year. Over time, CO2 is the gift that keeps on giving, and each year, our descendants will have to pay that greenhouse heat penalty for our current fossil fuel use.

      • My thoughts exactly , Using a capitalist system to try and fix a problem created by capitalism, at least to a large part, is not a new way of thinking , If we power everything using renewable s and not changing the overall thought process we wont stop extinctions , poverty etc. However its a great start to some serious problems for sure.

        Reply
        • If these arguments boil down to ideology, we’ll tend to lose them and tend to create more problems than we solve. Of course we should be wary of purist capitalism. But attacks on all industry and innovation and this purist focus on painting them with the same brush as hyper individualistic based objectivist capitalism is not helpful.

          I think we can all agree here that removing capitalist dominance from economic systems is a beneficial thing. Helping more people, reducing and removing harmful growth, redistributing wealth and preventing hoarding are all things we should be driving for. But the purist anti-cars arguments in my view tends to ultimately lead to shooting ourselves in the foot. Creating a situation where it is impossible to move forward because of an absolutist and inflexible mind-set.

      • The threat to Earth’s life support systems coming from climate change is many orders of magnitude greater than the threat coming from base issues involved in manufacturing alone. Of course, we should address the impact of both. But the immediacy and size of the potential harm coming from climate change is on a much, much greater scale than simple resource extraction and manufacturing.

        Furthermore, if the goals of the environmental movement become to never use raw materials from the earth, to never manufacture anything, then I think that such an inflexible view would very soon be consigned to the dust-bin of history. The focus should instead be on using Earth’s bounty both well and lightly — in a way that produces the least harm possible or in ways that ultimately help. On transforming manufacturing so that it ultimately has zero net negative external effect and eventually net positive. And on transforming human systems so that they optimize for the long term. In the shift from ICE to EV we can see a step toward that transformation. One step as part of many that are involved in larger sustainability.

        Reply
      • If an electrical car has, ultimately, zero emissions and less than 1/10th the total externality of a fossil fuel car when connected to a renewable grid, then it is definitely a part of the solution to climate change and an object that can certainly increase overall sustainability. Electric cars will compete for growth. But their first competitor will be fossil fuel cars. This is a positive competition in which those supporting sustainable systems ultimately win. Furthermore, as I mentioned above, the focus of EV leaders is more on energy systems, less on cars. With ride sharing and sustainability themselves as essential drivers of these industry leaders. In other words, painting EV manufacturers with the same brush as ICE manufacturers does the great disservice of false equivalency. In other words, it’s an argument based on numerous fallacious and harmful premises.

        Of course we should definitely be wary of excesses within EV industries as we would be wary of excesses in any industry. But the industry overall is far, far less harmful and one we should support if we care one whit about climate change and sustainability.

        Reply
        • I agree , totally with what you said , there is no turning back , the age of mas energy use , non sensible or not, is upon us . My home here on Van. Isl is so filled with smoke from the mainland interior fires its insane , I showed my son the Siberian fires through Lance modis and informed him the first major fires there started about 2008 . I cant see MT Arrowsmith out my window !! :http://globalnews.ca/news/3652201/b-c-wildfires-have-now-scorched-an-area-larger-than-pei/. This is unbelievable . Thank you for a great read and response . If all goes well , next year I will be farming full time ! Ive never owned a cell phone .

        • wili

           /  August 7, 2017

          Wow, glad to come back and see that my little comment spawned such a worthy exchange of ideas.

          I hope I have made it clear that I am not fundamentally anti-EV…my Zenn was the only car I ever bought new in my ~60 years on the planet.

          But I do still say that we have to move away from cars and car culture as quickly as possible. Whatever you think of his later works, Kunstler’s early critiques of cars and suburbs and high-consumption lifestyles they enabled and encouraged…works like “The Geography of Nowhere” are well worth reading and help form a larger picture of the problems we are up against. I hope that we can agree that being stuck in a traffic jam of EVs, while perhaps a bit quieter and less fume-beclouded, is still being stuck in a freakin’ traffic jam ‘-)

          I think we have to walk a somewhat tricky line of seeing some EV’s as a necessary part of a transition, while not falling so deeply in love with them that we lose site of the real and deep problems that cars pose. Cars are coffins, and also just absurd ways to do something very simple…move a ~150 pound body through space…in about the least efficient way imaginable–by surrounding it with a massive structure of steel, plastic, etc.

          Note also that at this point there is no way that we won’t desperately need all the non-carbon-generating energy we can get to try to get the unimaginably vast quantities of carbon pollution we have already spewed into the atmosphere back out of it. Moving rapidly to non-car forms of transportation (and just not moving around quite as much…we’re all heading toward the same inevitable destination, after all!) is definitely going to be a requirement of any kind of even marginally sustainable future.

          And yes, we will likely go on mining stuff.

          But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that mining, by its very nature, is anything other than the definition of non-sustainable activity. We may have to keep doing it for quite some time, but we should be looking very hard all the time at ways to limit or eliminate it through recycling, using other materials, or just doing without. Humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years doing next to no mining, certainly nothing remotely like current levels. We should be clever enough to figure out how to get back to close to that level again, before all mines are completely played out, their treasures largely turned to toxins.

          //end of rant, and thanks again for the great discussion from all sides

        • Not everyone is enabled by their context or experiences to make the same choices you have, wili. And we should provide people with every out possible. The heavy lift comes from the adoption of renewable energy systems. This includes EVs. The pace of energy system change is far exceeding the pace of consumption and behavior change. And renewables ability to move the ball on emissions reduction is considerable. This is why EVs are so important. And yes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating them. In fact, they should be celebrated to generate the enthusiasm and momentum necessary to enact a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Which is why I will continue to do just that.

  6. Spike

     /  August 4, 2017

    My view of George’s article is that he was railing against the UK’s extreme car culture, where more roads must always be built and no restrictions on personal vehicles permitted, within an environment in which public transport is derided, under resourced and expensive, being run by rent-seeking private providers.

    From the point of view of our ridiculously congested roads it makes no difference what propels cars, and likewise if the Gwent levels are destroyed for a new motorway as is proposed, in the same destructive fashion as Twyford Down was trashed by the M3.

    Of course from the point of view of emissions electric cars are preferable, but Monbiot’s recent writings have tended to take a more broad view of ecological issues than emissions alone. I’m sure he’d agree that purely from the air quality and climate perspective they are far preferable.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the perspective, Spike. I’ll have another read of Monbiot’s piece to see if I’ve missed something. But it would have at least been helpful if Monbiot acknowledged a difference from one car type to the other. Painting them with the same brush is not accurate or helpful.

      I agree with most of Monbiot’s general thrust, but considering the critical stage we are in now with regards to EVs, I think it’s important that we defend their build-out.

      The larger issue of car culture is certainly one worth talking about. But I’ve found that sensitivity to climate and environmental issues opens up the conversation for numerous additional steps to include reducing car culture, adding public transport, and digging deeper into ecological impacts.

      It’s fair to say that the movement for making cities more walkable and bikeable has made progress. So I’ll look to soften up some of these edges.

      Reply
      • Mblanc

         /  August 4, 2017

        Well, The Guardian have some other stuff on this issue. This details concerns regarding the influence of particulates from brakes and tyres, and is by a Prof and don’t think it is really anti-EV, so much as a warning that it is not just exhausts that emit particulates

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/04/london-should-lead-in-showing-electric-cars-will-not-tackle-air-pollution

        The first thing that strikes me is that many EV’s use regenerative braking, which surely reduces a large proportion of that source. Tyres sounds more difficult, and I think the recent evidence on particulates is so grim that the problem will have to be addressed somehow.

        It is also worth remembering we have areas of absolutely terrible air quality in the UK (the death toll alone is huge), but this is a confusing message at a crucial time.

        The merchants of doubt love this kind of thing. I think you are right to question the usefulness of the messaging, Robert.

        PS DT would have been fascinating on this, he is sorely missed.

        Reply
        • wpNSAlito

           /  August 5, 2017

          Is it too idealistic to think they can bring back the culture of the British Railway?

        • Bill h

           /  August 6, 2017

          Mblanc, once again this Grauniad article about particulates has been given a misleading spin by a sub-editor seeking to attract readers with some sensationalism. The professor who is quoted merely says EVs are not a “complete answer”.

      • Bill H

         /  August 5, 2017

        Robert, I feel a Guardian sub-editor is largely to blame for the impression of great negativity towards electric cars that his Guardian article conveys: sub-editors are normally responsible for headlines. These headlines, especially “electric cars are not the answer”, imply that the article is about the failings of electric cars , whereas Monbiot only gives them a very brief mention. He makes it very clear from this short passage that they are not on a par with fossil fuel cars in terms of atmospheric pollution: “the give us more airspace”.

        Sorry if I’m giving the impression of acting as Monbiot’s defence attorney on your blog!

        Reply
        • Nope. These are helpful comments. I’d assume that Monbiot would have buy-in for article leads. But if that’s not the case, then we have a different situation entirely. If the Guardian editor is involved in generating false impressions and false contraversy, then that’s on him, not Monbiot. I think this is a space to watch.

          For my part, in order to prevent a wedge being driven between those of us concerned about environmental issues, I’ve tried to approach this subject as gently as possible. I was, in part, loath to bring it up. But looking at what happened to biofuels historically, I did not want the same thing to end up happening to EVs. Biofuels were less defensible, less critical to overall sustainability — which was why I did not mount a larger defense of them here. But EVs are a key pillar to both sustainability and preventing catastrophic climate change at this time. In other words, without the carbon emissions that EVs will sequester if they gain rapid adoption rates, the Earth ends up warming substantially more this Century than it otherwise would. In addition, without the larger battery based production chain that EVs enable, wind and solar are less able to achieve rapid adoption rates due to lack of energy storage.

          So we’ve got to defend EVs if we’re going to get this big push in emissions reduction. If the anti-car folks (this editor or Monbiot) want to back us into a corner, we’ll have to fight. We don’t want to fight Monbiot. We see him as a leader. The kind of leader we want. But if we must defend EVs from fallacious attacks, we will.

        • Bill h

           /  August 7, 2017

          Robert, i don’t think sub-editors are even trying to push their own agendas when they do this sort of thing. They’re just trying to attract readers with provocative headlines.I’ve no direct experience of this sort of thing, but I know of people who have published in the media, and then been dismayed at the headline that appears above their work. Maybe it doesn’t happen so much in the US print media, which is traditionally less rambunctious than its UK counterpart.

        • OK. That’s fair enough. Possibly it was a mistake on the part of sub-editors and Monbiot. Possibly not. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not a good message to be putting out. Not a beneficial overall framing.

          Let me tell you how this evolved from my perspective and then maybe you can get a better idea.

          1. I write an article highlighting the hopeful trends surrounding the model 3.
          2. I get hammered by anti-car folks who all are falsely claiming that the EV is as bad as the fossil fuel vehicle — they link to George Monbiot’s article.
          3. I read George’s article and though it’s nowhere near as vitriolic as the communication the anti-car folks are sending my way, it’s pretty unfair to the EV overall. Even worse, it lacks a clear vision of what kind of systemic change that’s achieveable would actually reduce UK carbon emissions without the EV on a longer term trend. Even worse, Monbiot’s article completely misses the systemic and synergistic couplings between the EV and the larger wind/solar based renewable energy systems.
          4. I write an article defending the EV while extolling the virtues of other sustainable initiatives.
          5. Some guy on twitter says I’m attacking the sustainable cities initiative. Then goes on to create another false equivalency between my article and what George Monbiot is saying.
          6. But what George is saying and what I’m saying are not the same here. I’m saying we should continue to move forward on sustainable cities while also implementing a mass EV build out. George is attacking the EV as a solution entirely — casting unfounded doubt on its proven ability to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
          7. Stepping back, we also find a history where George also leveled charges against biofuels. These charges arguably harmed an earlier push to move away from fossil fuels. At this point, we need to move beyond George’s somewhat baseless fears and swiftly shift to non-fossil fuel based energy sources. The UK needs to replace both its vehicles on the road and its grid with renewables. That’s the base point we all need to support and push for.
          8. Monbiot going on a crusade against the EV at this time is hugely detrimental.
          9. There is no way in hell that I’m going to go on a similar crusade against sustainable cities — because they are very helpful!
          10. Moreover, I think sustainable cities are enabled by EVs in a synergistic design approach.

  7. oldhippie

     /  August 4, 2017

    Roadways for the magnificent carriage of fine motorcars are most often made from asphalt – oil – or from concrete, which is a huge source of CO2. Roadways eat the landscape. Parking lots eat the landscape. Private transport modules isolate their captives. The model has been tried. It has failed. An economy based on compulsive tail-chasing over enormous distances is a silly use of resources. Humans once lived in something called a “community”. We still know how to do that. We should do that.

    Reply
    • And here we return to the old polarized log-jam of all roads and cars = absolute bad. Congrats. How about instead attacking pipelines? That would be far more helpful than continuing to attack renewable energy and defend old gas clunkers…

      Reply
      • oldhippie

         /  August 5, 2017

        Previous remark contained no attack on renewable energy and no defense of clunkers. Present social arrangements of widely dispersed suburbia and lifetimes spent in cages called cars are a very new innovation, barely begun before WWII and only completely dominant since 70s or 80s. Yes, I think nearly all of the built environment since 1980 is anti-human landfill in progress. How about not continuing to defend social arrangements that have no future?

        Reply
        • Actually, Hippie, whether you realize it or not, it did. Suggesting that owning an old fossil fuel vehicle is better than transitioning to an EV was the premise of your original argument. If you’re willing now to walk back from this particular fallacy and admit that transitioning to renewables is part of the solution, then I’m fine with that. Your above statement appears to be movement to a fall-back argument. It’s also generally unhelpful in that it fails to recognize the fact that we can make roads out of carbon absorbing materials if we choose to. And we should. And, in any case, it’s not the road infrastructure that emits about 3 billion tons of carbon per year — it’s the ICE vehicles upon them. Materials for roads might emit 1/50th that at this time.

          In my view, this never-build, never-use, never innovate form of argumentation hurts us. Not only because it’s impractical. But also because it attacks the very actions that will get us out of the climate crisis and enable systemic movement toward long-term sustainability.

      • But can you point to specifics of oldhippie’s post rather than complain that he or she didn’t rail against other things you don’t like? I very much doubt that oldhippie would support pipelines, given the thrust of the comment.

        Reply
        • The irony that you don’t see here, Mike, is that if you’re attacking EVs, you’re basically supporting pipelines. And, yes, Old Hippie has long and fallaciously postulated that it’s better to own an old car than to replace it with a vehicle like an EV. If you’re really going to go there, Mike, I can dig up about a score of comments to that effect. At this point, I don’t have the time or inclination to continue beating this silly old horse. But if you push the point, I will.

      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 6, 2017

        Ideally, people would live in arcologies (cities contained in single huge buildings) and be able to walk and take elevators or people movers wherever they want to go. As the 3D population density increases, as the height of the arcology increases, distances between destinations within the arcology decrease. Designing arcologies using tensile forces, incorporating suspension bridge like elements within them, might make them safer in earthquakes, BTW.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology

        We are far from that situation, however. In the future we should do this, I think. Currently, there really aren’t any arcologies.

        Back in the real world, we have a case where billions of developing world people want to drive cars, and will spend money to do that. Far better that they buy an electric car, and avoid the tremendous greenhouse gas multiplier effect of fossil fuel use. Better an electric scooter or unicycle than an electric car. Also better if other countries don’t copy our zoning laws, and allow people to live where they work.

        Are current cities built for cars, instead of people? Maybe so. But we need a clear evolutionary path to get from the present to a sustainable future, and electric cars are a big part of that, I think.

        It’s hard enough to revolutionize your own lifestyle and habits, let alone trying to do that for an entire population.

        Elon Musk’s plan -solar houses, electric battery storage, and electric vehicles – is a practical way to make the world more sustainable. It takes into account a huge number of factors, including human nature, and is an incredibly smart plan, I think.

        Reply
    • Greg

       /  August 5, 2017

      There is so much innovation going on. I see these Solowheels now among a couple of early adopter commuters, in full suites and ties, in Washington D.C. regularly.They deftly maneuver through crowds and stop at intersections, take up no more space then their bodies and make the rest of us jealous when we are running to catch our train! They just carry them right on like a back-pack.

      Reply
    • Dave Person

       /  August 5, 2017

      Hi,
      I understand the problems with car culture very well having researched and published papers on the effects of roads on wildlife. However, Robert makes the important pragmatic point that dramatically reducing emissions now by using EVs is much more likely and doable in the time frame needed to prevent catastrophe than changing “car culture” throughout the world. In addition, many of you seem to think only about city scapes and forget rural areas, a mistake made by the Democratic party which resulted in Trump. In rural America for example, car-less living will be a really tough sell. Likewise, meatless living will also be a tough sell in those areas. To many rural folks, particularly in red states but also those in rural parts of progressive ones like Vermont, both of those issues will get wrapped up in a meme in which “big government” and “environmentalists” are trying to rule their lives. Compared with those issues, EVs are a lower hanging fruit that can make a big difference during the next decade.

      dave

      Reply
      • +1

        Thank you for these thoughts, Dave.

        I think the drive for car-less cities, or at least less cars in cities, is certainly a helpful one. As is the deconstruction of car culture. But we should be wary of one-size-fits all ‘solutions’ that leave other people out in the cold. The larger drive should be to try to bring as many people along, to help as many people as possible while enacting a larger drive toward sustainability. And I agree that a big push to kill off all cars when you have the EV solution available, would hurt a lot of regions pretty badly. Particularly suburbs and rural regions. In addition, it would also hurt the rate of energy storage build-out and price reduction — slowing the transition for base electrical generation.

        We tried but failed to help coal miners in West Virginia and in other places by suggesting money for support, retraining, and investment in renewable energy jobs replacements in those regions. It’s worth noting that republicans subsequently blocked our efforts to help the people of West Virginia in coal country — creating a desperation that Trump subsequently and cynically exploited.

        Despite this defeat, I think we should circle back and try to let the folks in WVA know where the real cause of their pain is coming from and to keep trying to give them outs and solutions. There’s no reason why West Virginia shouldn’t have an economy and environment as vibrant as that of Vermont. No reason other than the resource curse, and exploitation by harmful political interests.

        Reply
  8. Dbarce

     /  August 4, 2017

    Long time lurker, but I really felt the need to pop up. For a long time now I have been convinced that propelling a 1 ton mass to transport a 60-100kg mass is never ever going to be sustainable. Perhaps Robert or someone else in this wonderful community could do the necessary number crunching to convince me of the contrary (maybe it becomes efficient as a function of distance or whatnot). Otherwise I tend to agree that what we as a species need are bikes and more human powered devices. Anything else is just an excuse to keep BAU going.

    A good graphical representation of the dilemma can be found in this wonderful comic:
     http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comic/energy-slaves/

    Reply
    • So we have more than enough raw materials to produce vehicles out of various goods. The primary hit to sustainability comes from the engine — which burns fossil fuels and considerably worsens the climate crisis. That said, longer term global sustainability would benefit from less cars. The more immediate problem, though, is dealing with present expectations, infrastructure and economies. And we should certainly be able to imagine how a replacement of ICE production with EV production while also enabling a drive for less cars per person would be considerably helpful in this regard.

      Reply
      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  August 4, 2017

        Tesla have the aim of making their cars powertrains having a design life of 1 million miles. If you have vehicles that have that potential within them and combine it with some sort of shared ownership or leasing then the number of vehicles on the road and being produced could drop sharply. Closer to being sustainable than the present arrangements.
        https://electrek.co/2017/07/04/tesla-electric-motor-update/

        Reply
    • Mblanc

       /  August 4, 2017

      I think weight is a huge enemy of efficiency, and modern cars have gotten very heavy with all the emissions and safety aspects, so I also think that the current set up is unsustainable.

      A proper carbon tax would force all vehicle makers to prioritise weight-saving much more than is currently the case. It would also make alternatives much more competitive, and lead to a rebalancing of the traffic mix.

      In many ways, the cars we currently have are massively subsidised, which in turn has affected their design,meaning that big and heavy isn’t a huge problem.

      Imho, the subsidies are more of problem than the actual cars, because in a fairly costed world we will have far fewer of them.

      Reply
      • Good points.

        There’s a lot that comes down to the chicken and egg of policy. Removing incentives that keep BAU practices in place and adding incentives for speeding away from the presently reckless course. I don’t think it has to simply boil down to cars vs no cars. It’s more how you can move the whole system toward a larger sustainability through combined leadership and support by individual action.

        If some areas like cities transition to car-less or low-car saturation transport, then great. If the rural and more spread out areas rely on trains and EVs, then great as well.

        Reply
  9. Jimbot

     /  August 4, 2017

    Thanks RS, I’ve noticed that Monbiot seems to be a sort of “whichever way the wind blows” type of writer. Or at least I hold different views on several issues that he writes about.

    Electric powered bicycles, or the aerodynamically covered ones, velocipedes, or even the small Swallow three wheeled electric vehicle ( now produced here in Vancouver by Intermechanicca ) might be a kind of compromise sweet spot between the bike vs. car viewpoint. Of course, ultimately, from an energy use standpoint, the single occupant, large private vehicle is less sustainable. Let’s say unsustainable if we were to actually think that we would have “equality” on the planet in terms of access to resources for all humans.

    Reply
  10. mikkel

     /  August 4, 2017

    First off, I absolutely agree that EVs are an essential part of the solution and there needs to be policies that rapidly expand deployment. I think that all the manufacturing companies should work together to perfect the manufacturing and design of a small number of EV models that can then be mass produced — we need a WWII style effort for conversion.

    Monbiot could have reiterated the need for rapid adoption even in the context of pointing out 1:1 conversions won’t solve our problems.

    However, according to this Slate article (http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2014/05/02/electric_vehicles_how_much_energy_would_we_need_to_fuel_them.html) the US would need to increase its electrical generation by 30%, not including diesel. Right now, wind and solar make up about 5% of generation, so 6x as much capacity would need to be installed just to account for transport of passenger cars, let alone everything else. He is absolutely correct when he states that you can’t be anti-nuclear and pro-electrificiation without severe reduction in consumption.

    IMO, the only way that a rapid transition can be feasibly accomplished is by reducing consumption 70-80% across the board in all industries. Efficiency and reduction are much bigger pieces than generation.

    There have been plenty of studies done, including by the EPA, which shows this is entirely feasible to accomplish without any reduction in genuine standard of life. On the contrary, it’d actually increase our health and create a more equitable society.

    Robert, I understand your impulse to want to frame things in the current infrastructure and expectation, but the hard truth is that without reworking infrastructure and expectation across the board, we’ll never come close to even Paris targets, let alone 2C limits. And transport is perhaps the easiest area to do this.

    Reply
    • Mblanc

       /  August 4, 2017

      We have just had a ‘EV’s might crash the network’ scare here in the UK, but the last thing I read on it was that the whole thing was a bit overblown.

      I’m just off to bed, so I’ll try and come back on it tomorrow with some proper evidence. The report was by someone called Green Alliance, might be worth checking it out.

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  August 5, 2017

        It’s a complicated issue because there is a difference between peak load — which impacts grid stability, but can be managed through when you charge the EVs — and overall generation, which is just the total amount of energy that needs to be produced.

        For comparison sake, the average Briton drives 8000 miles per year, and the Tesla owners say they get about 3 miles per kwh. So that is roughly 2,666 kwh. The average UK household uses around 4000kwh a year, so adding an EV will increase their consumption by over 60%.

        In the US, the average driven is 13,500 miles a year, so that’s 4,5000 kwh. However, Americans use an insane amount of electricity, at 11,000kwh average, so EVs will only increase consumption by 40% on average.

        Of course driving smaller cars helps, Nissan Leaf owners are reporting 4-5 miles/kwh.

        Regardless though, this is a lot of energy.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  August 5, 2017

        Mblanc, this is what I found when searching.

        https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/20/uk-unprepared-for-surge-in-electric-car-use-thinktank-warns

        To be honest, it’s ridiculous that governments have been caught so flat footed. This has been a foreseen issue for decades, with demonstrated solutions that matured over 15 years ago.

        If communities take charge of their destiny and set up microgrids that were used just for charging a lot of this could be avoided though. I haven’t heard of any of those being set up however.

        Reply
        • Spike

           /  August 5, 2017

          Carbon Brief reckoned it was much less – they suggested demand might increase by 10% of 2050 total, and the excellent Chris Goodall reckoned 25% of current generation (he says 20% but 75 is a quarter of 300). To deal with peak demand I think it emphasises the need to move to price electricity according to time of use.

          Goodall here:

          https://www.carboncommentary.com/blog/2017/7/26/100-evs-can-be-easily-accommodated-on-the-uk-grid

        • John S

           /  August 5, 2017

          Mikkel re microgrids

          “In Brooklyn, LO3 Energy has teamed up with Siemens to create a pilot microgrid using blockchain technology. Residents with solar panels can sell excess energy back to their neighbours, in a peer-to-peer transaction which takes advantage of blockchain…
          Thanks to LO3 Energy’s partnership with Siemens, the project includes a microgrid control system, allowing the electricity generated to be directed to hospitals, shelters and community centres when needed.”

          http://www.power-technology.com/features/featurethe-brooklyn-microgrid-blockchain-enabled-community-power-5783564/

          small steps can lead to geat things!
          further…

          ” the North American headquarters and R&D center for Schneider Electric …earlier this month unveiled its own campus power microgrid…
          While the microgrid does serve some of Schneider Electric’s own power needs, it’s also part of the company’s R&D efforts to create more sophisticated smart microgrid technology to sell as a service to customers who must rely on an aging, less-reliable national grid infrastructure and rising electricity costs…
          Currently, Microgrids only supply about 1.6 gigawatts (GW) of U.S. electricity, or less than 0.2% of installed capacity. Over the next three years, however, that capacity is expected to more than double, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions or CCES, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization.”

          http://www.computerworld.com/article/3189931/sustainable-it/microgrids-energy-independence-for-companies-and-help-for-an-aging-infrastructure.html#tk.drr_mlt

          And regards EVs the philisophical point I particulay like is that it disrupts the traditional auto/ICE power nexus, and once disrupted all bets are off for an industry. Automobile useage could end up in a spectrum of end points…most of them an ‘improvement’…interesting times!

        • wpNSAlito

           /  August 5, 2017

          “To be honest, it’s ridiculous that governments have been caught so flat footed. This has been a foreseen issue for decades, ….”
          One [hydrogeology] professor pointed out that, as bad or worse than NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is NIMTO (Not In My Term of Office), whereby politicians recognize the longer-term value of certain changes, but don’t wish to spend political capital on them.

        • mikkel

           /  August 5, 2017

          Awesome John! Thanks for those links.

    • Bill H

       /  August 5, 2017

      MIkkel, why exactly is the George “absolutely correct when he states that you can’t be anti-nuclear and pro-electrificiation without severe reduction in consumption”? You seem to think that there is some hard limit to the speed at which renewables/storage can be built, and that therefore we will either need more nuclear or fossil fuel generation. If anything the reverse seems to be true at the moment with inordinately long delays in completion of the Flammanville and Olkiluoto in Continental Europe, and, it looks highly likely, Hinkley C in the UK. I’m not actually against nuclear: it’s just looking rather expensive and slow to come on stream when compared with renewables plus storage.

      Also, while it would be wonderful if all ICE cars were to disappear from our roads in the next few years I expect the reality will be a more gradual phasing out, so the increase in electricity consumption will be slower than you suppose.

      Reply
      • Spike

         /  August 5, 2017

        I agree – nuclear is too slow and too expensive as currently being built. Amory Lovins points out it hoovers up cash which could produce rapid reductions in grid emissions if used to build out more efficiency and renewables. I still read quite a lot of smart scientists who seem to regard nuclear as somehow the ideal solution to decarbonising electricity and suspect that coming from a physics background in many cases they tend to regard high tech reactors as somehow more serious as a solution. Fortunately the economics will push the issue in a more productive direction.

        Reply
        • mikkel

           /  August 5, 2017

          Fully agree Spike — and Lovins is one of the people pointing out that efficiency/reductions can be massive for low net cost.

      • Spike

         /  August 5, 2017

        Lovins on nuclear power (Carbon Brief): “One needn’t argue about whether it’s proliferative or unsafe or whether we know what to do with the waste if there’s no point building it because it’s a money loser…. If you built a new nuclear plant you would actually be making global warming worse than it should have been, because you are buying a lot less solution per dollar.”

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  August 5, 2017

        Bill, the total amount of energy generated in the world at present is equivalent to around 150,000 Twh per year. If you factor in efficiency increases from switching away from ICE, etc. then you get closer to 120,000 Twh.

        The total amount of wind electricity generation is about 1000 Twh and solar only about 250Twh. So we’d need to increase production by 100 times.

        If we sized batteries for a day of demand (I’m not sure if this is enough, most sources I found were sizing it significantly larger, but it feels like it should be enough with good grid control) then that is 328 Twh of batteries. This is equivalent to 27 Mt of lithium, which is roughly the amount of reserves in the world, and 1000x more than is presently extracted. The numbers are similar for other types of batteries.

        Assuming that the cost of the batteries continued to fall to around $100/kwh, that would be $30T of batteries, and the cost of wind/solar would be roughly another $30T, assuming continued price decreases.

        And of course all of this is just for today, whereas energy demand is expected to double in the next 20 years. And the numbers I’m including are by far the most optimistic you could expect (another 50% drop in costs, no problems from scaling, etc).

        Of course the economic argument doesn’t pay attention to physical reality, which is that all of this production takes enormous amounts of energy. Energy which we would need in order to continue our current society as well. This is known as The Energy Trap (https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/10/the-energy-trap/)

        So yes, there is a hard limit to the speed we can build out renewables, which potentially we could do if our entire productive economy was spent towards doing it — however the return on not using energy is vastly superior.

        It is confusing to me why so many people argue that it’s impossible to change our wasteful behavior but not that it’s impossible that we all spend much more effort into building out renewables, which don’t address other problems.

        Reply
        • mikkel

           /  August 5, 2017

          Also most of what I said applies to nuclear too, except that because it requires different resources then it could be more easily built out in parallel, and it would lower the need for batteries and super complex grid control.

          I forgot to add in the cost of redoing the grid to account for a full renewable energy system, which I’ve seen estimated at another $30T. That cost would be significantly lowered with more baseload. Here is an article that confirms my back of envelope calculations (http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/a-renewable-world-what-will-it-cost/) estimating it’d cost $100T over 20 years for full renewable.

          They claim that is not too big of a deal, except $5T per year is 50% of the world’s entire manufacturing value into a small number of outputs.

        • Mblanc

           /  August 6, 2017

          Thanks to Spike for finding the contrasting view. It wasn’t as well reported as the Green Alliance offering, but I wasn’t imagining it.

          Although I’m impressed with Mikkel willingness to do the math, we have this nuclear plant being built in the UK called Hinkley Point C, and the numbers are awful.

          The current estimate of the cost is £20 billion and rising, and EDF are hoping to have it operational in the late 2020’s.

          https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/03/hinkley-point-c-is-22bn-over-budget-and-a-year-behind-schedule-edf-admits

          If you look at all the problems EDF have had building the first EPR plants at Flaminville and the one in Finland, and given that this is the French that are struggling, with all their experience, it isn’t a good advert for a nuclear renaissance.

        • Bill h

           /  August 6, 2017

          Mikkel, you make some very good points, and I agree that there must be some limit to the rate of production of renewables and storage (which, incidentally covers a much wider range of technologies than just Li batteries). I was querying the rather more specific limit that you seem to claim would preclude the replacement of ICE vehicles with EVs.
          I will draw attention to your comment about reserves of Lithium. “Reserve” is defined as the resource that can be extracted at current prices. It does not mean the total quantity available to us, so this particular argument against rapid renewables development is flawed.

          I do agree that decarbonisation of the world economy will require a very large chunk of world gdp. However, such a diversion of resources isn’t unprecedented. It happened in World War 2. Of course that required behavioural change…

        • mikkel

           /  August 6, 2017

          Bill, fair enough. I had seen something that claimed reserves around 25Mt and resources around 40Mt, but looking at Wikipedia it seems that is incorrect, and that reserves are 25-40Mt with resources ??

          I do not think it is flawed against rapid deployment though, since it takes so long to develop new reserves. A better argument would be that lithium doesn’t need to be the primary battery of choice, as there are flow batteries, salts, etc that are more appropriate for grid storage. If lithium were only for mobile needs then there is enough.

          To be honest, I do not think that batteries are a limiting factor for conversion at all, my math is primarily to demonstrate the scale of the problem we are facing, and no matter what storage/generation technologies we use we will come across similar costs and extraction limits.

          I also want to make clear that money is not really a limiting factor, so it gets dangerous to talk about “cost” except as a benchmark for getting our heads around how much production needs to go towards the transition. Net benefits are highly positive even not accounting for averting societal collapse, so we need to develop new language.

          The more money we invest, the more we all benefit, but the more wisely we spend it the better the outcome. So when I talk about cost it is more in the sense of opportunity cost as opposed to “we need to worry about debt” cost.

          So although I quote $100T, it actually drives me crazy that net costs are rarely talked about. For example, energy efficiency has the capability of delivering $18T in net benefit in the US alone (https://thinkprogress.org/18-trillion-windfall-health-and-productivity-benefits-of-efficiency-top-energy-savings-5011c78c0845/)

          I don’t want to come across as too negative!

        • Not all batteries will be made out of lithium… We already have some substitution in the chain. And competition between ‘old lithium’ and new battery/capacitor tech will help to drive innovation and diversity. Further, use of lithium will become more efficient as time moves forward. In other words — more storage for less lithium. Finally, the present Lithium supply listed is not the total global supply. In other words, many additional sources are available to access. They just haven’t been accessed and listed as yet.

        • The math isn’t entirely helpful here because it doesn’t include a fully accurate or even partially accurate frame of reference for supply and demand or take a decent picture of the present direction of the technology involved.

    • Josh

       /  August 7, 2017

      For a while now I’ve been convinced by Kevin Anderson’s argument that to meet the 2c target we need to cut demand as that is the only way we can reduce emissions quickly – the necessary renewable infrastructure taking too long to roll out.

      So I agree. Electric cars are better than petrol cars but we had better drive less *as well* as replacing ICE engines. We have enough on our plates as it is when it comes to decarbonising electricity generation.

      If we can’t reduce demand for energy we miss 2c.

      Reply
      • I’d be a bit wary of KA’s argumentation here in that one can end up tipping off the other side of the razor’s edge without realizing it. The drive should be to make solid movements toward what’s possible at this time while continuing to seek improvements throughout that movement. Also, it’s getting tougher and tougher to see how we avoid 2 C by any response whatsoever without atmospheric carbon capture following a total cessation in fossil fuel burning.

        For example, a very rapid energy transition would probably be enough to limit warming to between 1.8 and 2.5 C depending on base climate sensitivity (my opinion is that the range is more 2.1 to 2.5). Beyond that, we need atmospheric carbon capture to start drawing down excess CO2. Failure to transform energy systems results in much more warming in the range of 4 to 9 C by end Century.

        A too rapid push for de-growth would basically put all economies of the world into recession. This would ironically result in old fossil fuel based infrastructure lasting longer due to lack of funds to provide an energy transition. In other words, you can’t remove the emitting infrastructure because you lack the funds to replace it. The other failure of this pure austerity argument is that basically no-one is going to go along with you. You basically generate this panic response and people cling to what they can.

        The best path forward is rapid energy transition while enacting a de-growth in harmful materials consumption and continuing to push efficiency improvements. That’s the center of gravity. And a renewable energy transition enables that.

        Reply
    • The idea is to try to do both at the same time. This is a heavy lift. But you have to defend both pillars. Shining a light on innovation is also necessary due to the positive emotional feedback, focus on action, and sense of empowerment which leads to further action and problem solving along these lines.

      Reply
  11. I re-read Mobiot’s piece a couple of times and I found it more of a rant against the eco-modernist extreme which argues that technology will save us and that we won’t need to change any of our living arrangements. Also, against the insane transportation policies of the UK government. His hit at the need for more electricity and the anti-nuclear advocates was just plain stupid.

    With better public transport, more cycle and people friendly spaces, and higher carbon taxes people would change behaviours: drive less, switch to an EV, walk, cycle, maybe even stop flying to far away places to lie on a beach. The danger with EV’s is that we lose any driver for the larger changes that are required for the speed of decarbonization required.

    Climate change is also only one of the planetary boundaries that we are pushing against, and continued consumption-oriented behaviours will not help in those other areas.

    Reply
    • Canvey

       /  August 4, 2017

      I agree with this take on the article. There does seem to be an emphasis on electric cars which is politically convenient as politicians don’t have to discuss the wider implications of our current way of life. They draw the argument to renewable energy and electric cars. Both are good things but it makes it seem that’s all we have to do.

      Replacing ICE with electric doesn’t even solve the issue of pollution if we just replace one for the other. Tyres and brake pads both produce micro particles.

      Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: “Electric cars are critical in the fight against climate change and deadly air pollution, but they’re not a panacea. We must now build the infrastructure that reassures ordinary people that cycling and walking is safe, and invest in public transport that is consistently clean, cheap and reliable.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/04/fewer-cars-not-electric-cars-beat-air-pollution-says-top-uk-adviser-prof-frank-kelly

      Reply
      • Bill h

         /  August 5, 2017

        Bicycles have tyres and brake pads. Tbe latter wear away alarmingly quickly from my own experience. The regenerative braking of electric cars means less brake pad wear. Frankly, i find this effort to highlight faults, however minor,a worthless exercise.

        Reply
    • Why attack a petrol vehicle ban, then? Why generate a false equivalency between petrol vehicles and EVs? I can think of about ten better ways to frame this.

      Reply
      • Bill h

         /  August 7, 2017

        Robert, he wasn’t attacking a ban on petrol vehicles per se; on the contrary he was criticising the UK govt for setting the ban for 2040 rather than much earlier.

        Reply
        • The net effect was to draw air out of the ban and reduce sense of urgency for moving away from fossil fuel based vehicles and toward electrical vehicles. It took air out of the ban, for example. Yes, he’s urging for an early ban. But he’s doing it in the same context where he basically falsely equates EVs with petrol vehicles.

          In the same context, he fails to see the usefulness of EV batteries after market and on the grid as electricity storage devices. Overall, far too pessimistic for EVs in general.

        • Bill h

           /  August 7, 2017

          Robert, sorry, I can see no evidence in the few lines in which he mentions EVs that he equates them with ICE vehicles. He says quite unambiguously that they are better for the atmosphere, or “air space”. Furthermore, we cannot infer anything about the level of George’s knowledge about the wider value of EV batteries in grid decarbonisation.

          Look, I get enraged like you by the idiocy of people who fail to read beyond a headline provided the headline is in accord with their POV, and then mouth off about it. It’s the modus operandi of Anthony Watts and 1001 other similarly smug bloggers, and I dread to think how much of this sort of crap you must receive on this blog. Thank you so much for enduring it so the rest of us don’t.

        • Meh. The title itself is a false equivalency. Not all cars are created equal. The un-quantified fuzzy materials impact argument is false equivalency. The conflation of climate change with larger social issues without drilling down to actual facts is false equivalency. The fuzzy math on efficiency is false equivalency. And the glaring failure to recognize EVs role in enabling renewable generation infrastructure is false equivalency.

          Of course there will be different opinions on Monbiot’s piece. My view is that he generated a false equivalency. My view is that anti-car sentiment to include EVs is definitely overblown. My view is that if you own a vehicle and want to otherwise have the least harmful impact, it should be an EV. If you can get by without one — fine. But most people in the modern economic system can’t. And finally, yeah, if we can provide outs so that people don’t have to own cars to get by, then we should. But we should also rapidly build out EVs to replace the ICEs that remain and to also provide a big base-load energy storage capacity for wind and solar. This is basic sustainability common sense. And lumping EVs in with ICEs, no matter how many qualified statements are added, just isn’t helpful.

          Fin. I’m done.

  12. Jimbot

     /  August 4, 2017

    It’s called the SOLO

    https://electrameccanica.com/

    Reply
    • Jimbot

       /  August 4, 2017

      The Tesla Model 3 is still the best news in cars since the Baker Electric, regardless of Monbiot’s opinion. Now if we could go back to electrified street cars in all our NA cities and towns, which we had up until the 1950s. Here in Vancouver they managed to hang on to a remnant of that system which persists in the form of overhead wires and electric city bus type trolleys on certain of the older streets.

      Reply
  13. wili

     /  August 5, 2017

    Meanwhile, the Euro-heatwave continues:

    “Europe heatwave sparks health warnings as temperatures soar”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40825668

    I was in the middle of the ’03 heat wave, visiting Paris. Paris, the center of culture, where during that week they had to pile the rotting, fetid corpse outside the morgue because the volume was just to enormous for them to process.

    I stopped flying after that, and have since given up all distance travel except by bike. (I had already mostly given up meat and most other forms of high-impact conspicuous consumption.)

    I’m not sure what is going to be the ‘wake up call’ for most people, but we are definitely collectively in need of a few.

    Reply
  14. Andy_in_SD

     /  August 5, 2017

    I can see a future for vehicles somewhat different to what we grew up with.

    With autonomous cars, a person does not need to own one. You can simply request one at 2pm tomorrow because you have to buy groceries and will be scheduled and arrive at that time. Kids will be able to go to a concert in this manner. A lot of such vehicles will be own by fleet companies.

    If I need to buy 2×4’s and fertilizer, I’ll reserve a self driving pickup truck at 9 am on Saturday.

    People will still own cars, but not everyone. There will be a population that does not need to, and will save money in this manner.

    I also see more bikes and other self propelled (or li powered) alternatives as well.

    We will still use carbon, but will treat it as a long term thermostat for the planet. We won’t simply crash carbon output and revisit a mini ice age. But rather such use will be budgeted and used with the atmospheric left overs (lifetime versus effect) taken into account.

    This is all doable. It is just a matter of civilization surviving long enough for us as a species to make a significant shift like this. There are many other scenarios that would work. Again, it falls on us as a species to stop the discharge to give us what little runway is left to make a large shift.

    Our enemy now it time.

    Reply
  15. Hilary

     /  August 5, 2017

    Current roading problems from NZ:

    This winter has been v wet here & we have had a succession of major road closures because of slips.

    The images are of the Manawatu Gorge road, a major highway link from the east to west of the North Is. It has had multiple slips and now seems like it wont be repaired, so closed for good. There are alternative routes but slow & hilly & not suitable for the amount of road traffic, heavy trucks etc. SO they are finally thinking of making better use of & returning the rail line (has had no slips) on the opposite bank to passenger trains again.

    There are other major highway closures at present, some a result of damage resulting from the ~2m uplift during the Kaikoura earthquake but also routes in around the capital, Wellington. All in all an ongoing nightmare for road users whatever type of car you drive!

    Image result for manawatu gorge closure

    Image result for manawatu gorge closure

    Interesting Video about the scale of the Kaikoura road reconstruction:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11888374

    Hilary

    Reply
  16. Hilary

     /  August 5, 2017

    Sorry I dont seem to be able to insert the images. 😦

    Reply
  17. Spike

     /  August 5, 2017

    The German press had a detailed article on electric cars (link below), reflecting perhaps Germany’s rather dirty lignite use. What seems clear is that we need to push on with cleaning up electricity generation rather quicker, charge cars ideally when renewable production is abundant and/or other demands low, and not neglect our quest to minimise the need for personal car transport. Interesting to read that “Norway is the leading country in Europe for electric vehicle sales. However, as the sales of electric cars have gone up, the use of public transport to get to work dropped by 80 percent, according to the UPI.”

    http://www.dw.com/en/how-eco-friendly-are-electric-cars/a-19441437

    Reply
    • wpNSAlito

       /  August 5, 2017

      A lot of energy is used to provide gasoline at the pump, even before it is burned, and Houston refineries also use dirty coal power to produce it. It takes much less energy to supply electrons than to supply molecules. Also, the newer underground fuel storage tanks cost much more than the older ones which leaked into groundwater supplies, and require more maintenance than power lines for EV chargers.

      Reply
    • Bill H

       /  August 6, 2017

      Spike, you’ve put a damper on my Sunday morning there! Just as well my Nissan Leaf had over 30,000 miles on the clock when I bought it. I’ll attempt a defence of EVs even with the present mix of electricity generation.
      1. They should last MUCH longer than ICE cars because of their far greater mechanical simplicity: no heat engine, clutch, distributors, pistons and the rest of the paraphernalia required by an I.C.E. EV motors are spec’d for a million miles’ use, whereas coaxing an I.C.E. even past 100,000, is a huge effort.
      2. EV batteries are finding very productive second lives in grid storage systems when their capacity gets too low for use in EVs. See, inter alia: http://media.renault.com/global/en-gb/renaultgroup/media/pressrelease.aspx?mediaid=92203 , so they are contributing towards the decarbonisation of electric power. despite their carbon intensive production.
      3. Their undeniable benefits of quietness and of not producing poisonous fumes/particulates means that they can make living in areas of high population density a lot more attractive. Since high-density living is a key to a reduced carbon footprint, there is at least a plausible argument that EVs, driven, like mine, mainly in a high population density city help bring about the sort of behavioural change that many on this thread have been highlighting.

      Reply
    • EVs vs public transport is a harmful meme, which is why I jumped on this Guardian article. Really sad to see this press-based mischaracterization continue.

      Reply
    • Bill h

       /  August 7, 2017

      WPnsa, excellent vid.from the folks I get my electricity from. I confess I’d never considered that the embodied carbon in a litre of gasoline is significantly more than the sum total of carbon atoms therein.

      Reply
  18. Can we please keep your eyes on the ball?

    And that ball is eliminating needless greenhouse gas emissions. We have a very narrow time window to replace the burning of carbon with renewable electrical generation – a matter of a very few decades at most before AGW becomes unmanageable.

    Building and deploying new RE is the most important thing humanity can do right now to ensure that civilization as we know it survives. Burning less carbon by building and deploying a new RE infrastructure as fast as possible in order to replace the fossil fuel infrastructure we all need to run our civilization is the sole key solution. It is the ball.

    And EVERYTHING else is a distraction. Lots of good things are a distraction.

    Population control is a hundred year project and is a distraction. Conspicuous consumption is a distraction. Bike paths are a distraction. Building anything that burns carbon (like non electric mass transit) is a distraction. Rejecting RE for seemingly noble reasons ( protecting all desert ecosystems, for example) is not just a distraction, but is likely a astroturf project of the Koch brothers. Concerns about rubber tire particulates is a distraction.. That EVs are heavy is a distraction. How much energy we use or squander is a distraction. The beef industry is a distraction.

    Our energy future can be an enormous opportunity to raise, not lower, the quality of life for all. We are bathed every day in millions of times more free energy that we could possibly need to harvest. Energy use does not necessarily need to be constrained – it needs to become carbon-free. Most of what you believe about energy conservation is based on valid assumptions about fossil fuel use, but will have less and less pertinence in a maturing RE world where energy will be evermore superabundant, inexpensive, and non harmful to the environment. Energy use is not the enemy – burning carbon is the enemy.

    But we must keep our eyes on the ball. Discussing the relative merits of a carbon tax (for another decade!) does NOT build and deploy new RE. Building and deploying RE does.

    Reply
    • Andy_in_SD

       /  August 5, 2017

      Very well stated. Time is our enemy, and we are burning that up (no pun…).

      Reply
    • “in a maturing RE world where energy will be evermore superabundant, inexpensive, and non harmful to the environment.”

      This may be true sometime in the future, but in the here and now where we need to drastically cut carbon emissions it is not (and will not be for at least a good while). That is why energy efficiency/reduced energy usage is just as important as implementing renewables. Otherwise, we will get runaway climate change well before the energy cornucopia arrives.

      Reply
      • Well you are correct that we can do both. But merely improving efficacy without replacing FF tech with RE tech means we will still be increasing atmospheric GHG’s. Building and deploying RE is the ultimate answer, and is more difficult to accomplish as our focus is diluted.

        And I think we need to be very careful to point out that reducing energy usage should not come at the expense of reducing quality of life. There are too many well-meaning people who are espousing forced cuts in quality of life (QOL) in order to achieve energy savings (some right here in the comments). What better means could there be to bolster the corrupt arguments of AGW deniers that getting rid of FF’s implies reducing our QOL, than to actually advocate such madness?

        Reply
        • Ginger —

          I just want to add how refreshing it is to see your view here. I’ve been locking horns with seemingly well-intended individuals seeking to force quality of life reductions as a means of solving climate change. In my view, this forces environmentalists to fight on untenable political ground. It’s a no-win situation.

          My solution has been to try to espouse an action-oriented focus that highlights improvements and looks toward a positive sustainment and improvement of life, wealth, and beauty (which climate change either considerably reduces or destroys wholesale).

    • I agree that climate change is the predominant issue that we need to address, but not by a large margin. It is worth pointing out that most of the environmental damage we’ve done so far has not been caused by climate change but by civilisation and a desire for growth. Climate change impacts could easily surpass that damage but not addressing the other ways we’ve damaged our only home is not going to help in the long term. If EVs and RE allow us to continue the wreckage for longer, I’m not sure it’s much of a good thing.

      Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 6, 2017

        It is the huge greenhouse heat multiplier effect of fossil fuel use, coupled with the unknown but possibly huge risk from a methane catastrophe, that make climate change the most important environmental issue of all time, I think. If we destabilize the methane hydrates or create a self-sustaining positive feedback greenhouse cycle from Arctic permafrost, for example, that could plausibly lead to a hyperthermal mass extinction event, many scientists agree.

        Environmentally, a hyperthermal mass extinction event would be a big deal, you think?

        I certainly think so.

        Most of that additional heat that will be produced is in the future, as CO2 is “the gift that keeps on giving”. Unless actively removed from the atmosphere, CO2 produced from fossil fuels today will keep producing a heat penalty for our fossil fuel use for thousands of years in the future. Ken Caldiera of Stanford says that heat penalty for current fossil fuel use will add up over thousands of years to 100,000 times or greater than the useful heat of combustion of the fossil fuel, see my link in my reply to you above. Most climate scientists of course agree with Caldiera, incorporate such math in their models, and many are likely incredulous that most of the general population doesn’t know this fact.

        So yes, climate change is the most important environmental issue we face, and yes, the margin between climate change and the other environmental issues is very wide.

        Reply
      • +1 to this whole conversation. Lots of good points and info. Thanks .

        Reply
    • Leland Palmer

       /  August 6, 2017

      Right on. +1.

      Reply
    • +1. Thank you Ginger.

      Reply
  19. Ron Humphreys

     /  August 5, 2017

    All true and valid. Musk type technology and planning and it is all feasible and necessary.

    However the past impact of animal agriculture is not the present impact of animal agriculture. As there are tens of millions billions more of us there are also tens of millions billions more of cattle and other food animals producing methane and causing destruction of Co2 remediators such as the amazon forest, dead zones in the ocean due to waste products and more in the way of negstive impact. This was not the situation a hundred years ago.

    So both must be done. We must endeavor fossile free fuel transportation and a animal free diet as well. One or the other will not solve this thing.

    Global catastrophy is upon us. We must not just engage solutions which fit our personal preference and require little in the way of personal action. Blaming continually those guys over there for this thing.

    A global interconnected power grid as regards as means for increasing efficiencies and most effective applications of energy from most suitable sources (now a doable thing) is also a necessity but that is another matter.

    Individually we must all become vegan in diet.

    Reply
    • Transitioning to a vegan diet is helpful. Some have overblown the specific impact of meat-based farming on carbon emissions, however. And from a carbon-emissions perspective, the fossil fuel use of agriculture is the primary harmful contributor.

      Reply
  20. islandraider

     /  August 5, 2017

    We live in a community of people that values automobile habitat (cars & all the infrastructure that supports their operation) above all else. It is valued way above the life-sustaining habitat of the natural world.

    Reply
  21. Suzanne

     /  August 5, 2017

    Okay…We live in a state that is run by Republicans and where you can’t even use the term “Climate Change” in a state government memo. Decent bike lanes? Fat chance. We have minimal mass transportation, so cars are a must have in our lives. My husband and I drive two cars..one is 18 years old, the other is 10 years old. We carpool as often as we can. But our reality, especially with 4 dogs that go to work with us, is we need cars to get around. I would love it if we lived in a world without cars…but until that day…I will try to find a vehicle that is friendlier on the earth.

    We just found this new SUV all EV that we find exciting, given our farm/animal lifestyle. It is called the Bollinger B1. The world of the EV is certainly opening up to new ideas and innovation..and for that I am thrilled. Can’t wait to get rid of our fossil fuel vehicles..

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  August 6, 2017

      +1

      Reply
    • Bill H

       /  August 6, 2017

      Suzanne, You make a very good point. I’m not from the USA, but I hear that calls by the Democrats for better public transport funding and cycling provision didn’t go down at all well in the “Red States”, including the newly red ones. One can call for behavioural change, but one needs to be smart enough to ensure that the new behaviour is NOT putting a cross against “Trump” on one’s voting paper.

      Reply
  22. wili

     /  August 5, 2017

    “Global Warming Is Fueling Arizona’s Monstrous Monsoons”

    “The new study was published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. Using more detailed and localized precipitation information than is standard for weather data, Castro’s team compared monsoon rainfall throughout the Southwest from two periods — 1950 to 1970 and 1991 to 2010. The team found that Phoenix and many of the state’s low deserts saw rain falling in much more intense bursts. This happened even as the daily average rainfall across most of Arizona decreased by as much as 30 percent in some places.”

    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/warming-fueling-arizonas-monstrous-monsoons-21679

    { I sometimes feel like a cat leaving little climate-info ‘mice’ on roberts doorstep ‘-) }

    Reply
  23. Bob Nickson

     /  August 6, 2017

    At a price of $0.25 to $0.35 per watt for PV panels, 12,000 miles of EV travel a year can be provided by ~$1,000. of panels. At a 25 year lifetime, that works out to be about $0.10 per day.

    Add ‘soft costs’ like inverters, grid tie, and racking of course, and administrative hurdles and all that, but just the above facts alone imply that coming up with the power to charge the cars is not going to be a long term problem. The footprint of that solar array to provide the power is barely larger than the footprint of the car itself. PV canopies over car parks seem obvious.

    The footprint of an electric bicycle and a solar panel to power it will be much, much smaller of course, and a whole lot of people in developing economies will adopt that strategy before they have the means to invest in an electric car and that will influence how infrastructure develops in many areas.

    Reply
    • ” At a 25 year lifetime, that works out to be about $0.10 per day.”

      PV panels have a 25-year warranty. But degradation experiments on modern panels indicate a useful lifespan of 125 years before output drops below 70% of rating when new. So, your calculations are very conservative. 🙂

      Reply
      • Bill h

         /  August 7, 2017

        Ginger, this is really interesting. I have wondered why people keep stating a 25 year lifetime for them, other than for the reason that this is a typical “depreciation lifetime” for a piece of capital equipment. Do you have a reference for the 125 year lifetime?

        Reply
  24. Greg

     /  August 6, 2017

    “Sustaining extreme heat for an entire month is a more impressive feat than doing so for just one day. This past July, Furnace Creek station at Death Valley, California, measured an average monthly temperature of 107.4°F—the hottest single month ever reliably measured anywhere on Earth.”
    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/new-global-record-hottest-single-month-established-death-valley

    Reply
  25. Greg

     /  August 6, 2017

    Mars rover Curiosity took a selfie on its 5th birthday today. A note to self: Mars is not an escape. We must make it work on this planet first or dust to dust is what we become as a species:

    Reply
  26. Greg

     /  August 6, 2017

    The heart of Coal Country USA– Wyoming: a brief video on its embracing of Wind and even the Chinese recruiting and training for it.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/coal-bastion-wyoming-sees-huge-growth-in-renewable-energy-jobs/

    Reply
  27. Jimbot

     /  August 6, 2017

    Hi RS, Could you please allow my link further up to the SOLO electric commuter vehicle? I feel it contributes to the discussion. I have no association with them. Here in Vancouver there is a group called Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, VEVA, whose website I sometimes have followed. Anyway, that group, quite knowledgeable, seem to like the SOLO and the Leaf so far. They seem like a huge bargain, a no-brainer, compared to all the effort and expense they used to go through to build their own electric conversions.

    Reply
  28. Robert In New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    Reply
  29. Robert In New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    Reply
  30. Robert In New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    Reply
  31. Robert in New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    Reply
  32. Robert in New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    Coming soon to a location by you: “The Attack of the Monstrous Rain Bombs”

    NEW ORLEANS – A massive series of rain storms dumped between 8 and 10 inches of rain in the metro New Orleans area over about a three-hour time span, flooding streets, stranding motorists and – unlike two weeks ago – getting in to some homes, cars and businesses.

    Those who were quick enough to get indoors or get their cars to higher ground considered themselves lucky, but many motorists were trapped with nowhere to go. Some of the same areas that saw flooding just a few weeks ago, again fell prey, this time to even heavier rain.

    MORE: Photos from the storm

    This time, tempers were short with many wondering if the pumps were working, a constant refrain in New Orleans, but assurances were given by the Sewerage and Water Board that the pumps were indeed working to capacity, but a capacity – one inch in the first hour and half an inch every hour thereafter – that was no match for the training and stationary rain system.

    WWL-TV Meteorologist Dave Nussbaum said rain was said to be between 8 and 10 inches in the metro area.

    Several people on Facebook wondered how the city would handle a slow-moving hurricane given these two floods in a short time span that seemed to overwhelm the city’s systems.

    Cedric Grant, the Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board said his system was working at capacity. “It’s going to take some time to catch up. We’re doing everything we can to move the water out of the city, but it’s more than the system was designed to take,” he told Eyewitness News’ Kristin Pierce on Saturday’s 5 & 6 pm newscasts. “At the end of the day, we’re accustomed to rains that exceed the capacity of the system. We just have to hunker down and get through it.”

    Reports of flooded streets came from the Orleans Avenue area, where businesses such has as the Treme Restaurant and the World Famous Willie Mae’s Scotch House took on more than a foot of water. Under the Orleans Avenue exit from I-10, dozens of cars were seemingly water logged. The Canal Blvd. train trestle had water up nearly to the area where trains pass and flooding was also reported near the Superdome, in Lakeview, in much of the CBD, on Claiborne Avenue, Esplanade, Broad Street and other areas.

    Outlying areas were not spared either with some of the usual suspects like the Elmwood area and Old Mandeville seeing high water.

    The RTA system in New Orleans was grounded for several hours as streets were impassable and some cars blocked the streetcar lines.

    http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/massive-rain-swamps-metro-no-saturday/462207164

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  August 6, 2017

      Thanks for all the posts updating on the “Rain Bombs in N.O.” Hope you and yours are safe and unscathed.

      Reply
      • Robert in New Orleans

         /  August 7, 2017

        I actually live in Algiers which a area of New Orleans that is on the West Bank of the Mississippi River and while we received a lot of rain, it was nowhere near the amount that fell in the affected neighbor hoods on the East Bank of New Orleans.

        Reply
  33. Robert in New Orleans

     /  August 6, 2017

    NEW ORLEANS – Flood weary and water-logged New Orleans residents were in no mood to be gracious when a second major flooding event in the past few weeks again made streets impassable and this time got into some homes and businesses and several cars.

    What had New Orleanians concerned on social media was also what these two rain events showed about the city’s drainage system and what it might or might not be able to handle during a hurricane event.

    Saturday’s rain event was by most measures twice as heavy as the one a few weeks ago.

    Story continues below video

    Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant vigorously defended the system in a couple of telephone interviews on Eyewitness News and later in a live press conference.

    The system, he said, worked as well as it could at the now well-known capacity of one inch of rain in the first hour and a half inch every hour thereafter. All the pumps, he said, we working and no system could have handled what this city was dealt – 8-10 inches of rain in about three hours time.

    “There is no drainage system in the world that can handle that immediately,” he said, while saying he was somewhat frustrated. “I continue to tell the people what this system can do. It’s pretty amazing in that it can do one inch of rain in the first hour and a half an inch of rain every hour after that. We are dealing with 8 to 10 inches of rain in three hours. It is not going to be able to pump that in an hour.”

    Grant said the recent rains are part of the climate change era.

    “We have these kinds of rains every month and it’s not just us. It’s the rest of the country that’s experiencing the same weather patterns.”

    Grant says he gets the frustrations of business and homeowners, but he says these types of rains have happened in the past and you should just ride it out. He contends the city of New Orleans has one of the most robust drainage systems in the world and that to double its capacity would cost billions of dollars the city doesn’t have.

    “We have the largest drainage pumps anywhere. To double them would be billions of dollars… We have a fairly significant system, one of the most significant in the world, but we’re in a situation now where we receive more rain than anybody could have imagined on a recurring basis. This system is doing everything it can to address that.”

    http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/orleans/swb-chief-no-system-could-have-handled-that-rain/462264393

    Reply
    • Bill H

       /  August 6, 2017

      Robert, that is bad. What are we talking about: 1 in 100 years, 500 years,….?

      Reply
      • Robert in New Orleans

         /  August 7, 2017

        I really don’t know to answer you honestly. I my opinion the phrase of 1 in 100 year or what ever storm event is now obsolete because the rapidity of climate change. Our records, our language and our experiences no longer give us useful guides or measurements to the environment around us because of the rate of change.

        Reply
    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
  34. Suzanne

     /  August 6, 2017

    OT….Neven has PIOMAS August 2017…up on his blog:
    http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2017/08/piomas-august-2017.html

    His bottom line thus far:

    Last year I was of the opinion that the Arctic (and thus the rest of the world) had dodged a bullet, thanks to a slow start of the melting season. This year I’d say it has dodged a cannonball given the record low maximum and the record low volume (by a large margin) for months on end. Not only was there a slow start in May, but also, when the sun started to make itself felt, a larger amount of winter snow on the ice seemed to block the formation of melt ponds. This meant that there’s a lot less melting momentum than we saw in years like 2007, 2010 and 2012, which basically can make a big difference for thin ice right behind the periphery.

    Reply
  35. Greg

     /  August 7, 2017

    Just watched Elon Musk’s 2017 TED talk again. Worth watching for inspiration and insight into the future. He speaks at one point with the wisdom learned from the Apache (and other native cultures I imagine), that there are probable futures we are living into. His goal/motivation is to increase or decrease those probabilities. We all play that role in different forms and degrees as scribblers. One goal of his is to remove energy as a limit for our future, to remove our guilt about our use and need for it. As an environmentalist that opens up so much room to focus on the other challenges, most of which, in one form or another require energy, such as water purification, or food production, etc.

    Reply
  36. wili

     /  August 7, 2017

    If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef

    With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals.

    “I think there’s genuinely a lack of awareness about how much impact this sort of change can have,” Harwatt told me. There have been analyses in the past about the environmental impacts of veganism and vegetariansim, but this study is novel for the idea that a person’s dedication to the cause doesn’t have to be complete in order to matter. A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact—more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering.

    To understand why the climate impact of beef alone is so large, note that the image at the top of this story is a sea of soybeans in a silo in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The beans belong to a feed lot that holds 38,000 cattle, the growth and fattening of which means dispensing 900 metric tons of feed every day. Which is to say that these beans will be eaten by cows, and the cows will convert the beans to meat, and the humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clearcutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people….

    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/08/if-everyone-ate-beans-instead-of-beef/535536/

    Reply
  37. wili

     /  August 7, 2017

    Sorry to keep harping on this:

    In the past three decades climate change has already accounted for about 59,000 suicides in India, and with continued warming, this rate should increase sharply:

    Title: “Farmer suicides rise in India as climate warms, study shows”

    https://phys.org/news/2017-07-farmer-suicides-india-climate.html

    Extract: “A study suggests India will see more such tragedies as climate change brings hotter temperatures that damage crops and exacerbate drought. For every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming above 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) during the growing season in India, there are 67 more suicides on average, according to the findings published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS.

    For the study, researcher Tamma Carleton looked at suicide data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau between 1967 and 2013, along with data on agricultural crop yields and on temperature change.

    “I estimate that warming temperature trends over the last three decades have already been responsible for over 59,000 suicides throughout India,” writes Carleton, who studies agriculture and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley. In other words, warmer temperatures were a factor accounting for a 6.8 percent increase in suicides, the study says.”
    thnx to aslr at asif for this

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  August 7, 2017

      Don’t apologize. These stories about the suicides in India are tragic and puts a face on the effects of CC. They also remind us…that more human tragedy are going to keep coming at us due to CC.

      Reply
  38. Suzanne

     /  August 7, 2017

    The “Understanding Climate Change” Channel on Youtube has another video up…I have noticed he is putting them up much more frequently. Instead of weekly…they are up, many times, only after a few days.
    Climate & Extreme Weather News #51 (August 4th to 6th 2017)…includes starting at 21:35 the New Orleans rain bombs, Robert in N.O brought us up to date on:

    Reply
  39. Hallyx

     /  August 7, 2017

    If these doctors, professors and researchers are correct, this should be good news:

    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/08/07/thawing-arctic-beyond-flags

    Reply
  40. wili

     /  August 7, 2017

    Just another indication of how furiously the global economic and governmental systems are still working to destroy the planet:

    –new study finds 6.5% of global GDP goes to subsidizing dirty fossil fuels–

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/aug/07/fossil-fuel-subsidies-are-a-staggering-5-tn-per-year

    Reply
  41. Dave Person

     /  August 7, 2017

    Hi,
    Message to all conservatives and Republicans. The idea that your eyes will be damaged by looking directly at the eclipse of the sun this August is a lie by liberal scientists. It is a conspiracy to prevent you from seeing the true face of God. Don’t be afraid, look directly at the sun and better, use binoculars.

    dave

    Reply
  42. Mblanc

     /  August 9, 2017

    I feel a bit ill posting from the tawdry rag that is the UK’s Daily Express, but I couldn’t find this story elsewhere.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/838983/Electric-car-fears-unfounded-National-Grid-new-power-stations

    I’m sure there is plenty of work to be done to shape the grid to be ready for the future, but beware of over-selling this problem.

    Reply

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