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The Economist’s Solution To Clean Energy And Global Warming


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#1 modest

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 04:53 AM

Renewable energy is typically clean energy.

Fossil fuel is a limited resource. As supply diminishes price rises.

The largest, and really the only, impediment to renewable energy like solar is that there are cheaper energy sources available. It isn’t economical to use renewable energy right now because it can’t compete with cheaper methods.

We are nearly upon the precipice of peak oil and peak coal.

Given the previous four postulates, the clean energy problem (and global warming by extension) is going to solve itself shortly without intervention. Once it becomes more expensive to extract and transport oil and coal than it is to produce and transport clean energy, no one will use it... at least not in a worrisome amount.

I’m not an expert and I’m sure this has occurred to plenty of people, so I’m wondering if I’m missing anything. Why, in other words, are ‘dirty’ energy, and global warming, problems that need to be fixed with the likes of Kyoto, rather than problems which are inevitably and shortly going to shortly fix themselves?

~modest

#2 F9T

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 05:13 PM

Not only that, but solar output has been doubling every two years for the last 20-30 years, whether governments are interfering or not. Ray Kurzweil estimates that in a further 10 doublings - or 20 years - all the worlds energy will come from solar.

Obviously it's not that simple in terms of delivering energy to peoples homes, but it does raise questions about the urgency.

#3 JMJones0424

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 06:23 PM

While the possible damage done to the environment in global warming through the combustion of fossil fuels is obviously limited, it may be a mistake to conclude that scarcity alone will prevent a substantial warming. Please read George Monbiot's article "How much fossil fuel can we burn", in which he makes the case that we can only burn (depending on the figures being used) anywhere from 61% of presently identified reserves from now on to 33% of year 2000 known reserves between 2000 and 2050.

#4 Turtle

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 07:51 PM

[quote name='F9T' timestamp='1302649985' post='306468']
Not only that, but solar output has been doubling every two years for the last 20-30 years, whether governments are interfering or not. ...[/quote]

poppycock.

Solar activity & climate: is the sun causing global warming?


links for each reference below at page above.

[quotename='skepticalscience.com']Other studies on solar influence on climate
This conclusion is confirmed by many studies finding that while the sun contributed to warming in the early 20th Century, it has had little contribution (most likely negative) in the last few decades:

•Erlykin 2009: "We deduce that the maximum recent increase in the mean surface temperature of the Earth which can be ascribed to solar activity is 14% of the observed global warming."
•Benestad 2009: "Our analysis shows that the most likely contribution from solar forcing a global warming is 7 ± 1% for the 20th century and is negligible for warming since 1980."
•Lockwood 2008: "It is shown that the contribution of solar variability to the temperature trend since 1987 is small and downward; the best estimate is -1.3% and the 2? confidence level sets the uncertainty range of -0.7 to -1.9%."
•Lean 2008: "According to this analysis, solar forcing contributed negligible long-term warming in the past 25 years and 10% of the warming in the past 100 years..."

•Lockwood 2008: "The conclusions of our previous paper, that solar forcing has declined over the past 20 years while surface air temperatures have continued to rise, are shown to apply for the full range of potential time constants for the climate response to the variations in the solar forcings."
•Ammann 2007: "Although solar and volcanic effects appear to dominate most of the slow climate variations within the past thousand years, the impacts of greenhouse gases have dominated since the second half of the last century."
•Lockwood 2007: "The observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanism is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified."
•Foukal 2006 concludes "The variations measured from spacecraft since 1978 are too small to have contributed appreciably to accelerated global warming over the past 30 years."
•Scafetta 2006 says "since 1975 global warming has occurred much faster than could be reasonably expected from the sun alone."
•Usoskin 2005 conclude "during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least this most recent warming episode must have another source."
•Solanki 2004 reconstructs 11,400 years of sunspot numbers using radiocarbon concentrations, finding "solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades".
•Haigh 2003 says "Observational data suggest that the Sun has influenced temperatures on decadal, centennial and millennial time-scales, but radiative forcing considerations and the results of energy-balance models and general circulation models suggest that the warming during the latter part of the 20th century cannot be ascribed entirely to solar effects."
•Stott 2003 increased climate model sensitivity to solar forcing and still found "most warming over the last 50 yr is likely to have been caused by increases in greenhouse gases."
•Solanki 2003 concludes "the Sun has contributed less than 30% of the global warming since 1970."
•Lean 1999 concludes "it is unlikely that Sun–climate relationships can account for much of the warming since 1970."
•Waple 1999 finds "little evidence to suggest that changes in irradiance are having a large impact on the current warming trend."
•Frolich 1998 concludes "solar radiative output trends contributed little of the 0.2°C increase in the global mean surface temperature in the past decade."
[/quote]

#5 JMJones0424

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 08:30 PM

poppycock...


Agreed, but I think that you may have misunderstood F9T as I did before re-reading his post a few times. I think rather than the absurd assertion that solar output is doubling every two years, instead he meant electrical generation from solar is doubling every two years.

While this may or may not be true, extending that projection into the future is troublesome for a number of reasons. Obviously, not all populated regions of the world are economically viable for solar power generation. And until a truly efficient power storage scheme is developed, I doubt seriously that solar can be a primary energy option for most regions.

#6 Turtle

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 10:45 PM

Agreed, but I think that you may have misunderstood F9T as I did before re-reading his post a few times. I think rather than the absurd assertion that solar output is doubling every two years, instead he meant electrical generation from solar is doubling every two years.


:doh: erhm...i hope so. :kick: :lol:

While this may or may not be true, extending that projection into the future is troublesome for a number of reasons. Obviously, not all populated regions of the world are economically viable for solar power generation. And until a truly efficient power storage scheme is developed, I doubt seriously that solar can be a primary energy option for most regions.


roger. then too, not all populated regions of the world have any reliable power generation even now.

solar & wind if taken far enough will start to have their own environmental impacts, including -but not limited to- the energy they extract that would have otherwise gone about its natural business. wind farms slow the wind and alter weather downwind. solar farms shade the ground as well as redirect a portion of the collected sunlight back up into the atmosphere.

one option i've heard mention of rather than storage is smart switching by computer control, but it seems to me that necessarily would add transmission losses. :shrug: i dunno. :fan:

#7 modest

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 12:26 AM

Not only that, but solar output has been doubling every two years for the last 20-30 years


If that is true then it would serve to hasten the inevitable. But, like JMJones said, solar is region-specific. Transporting power is relatively easy though, so solar, I would recon, has a very large part to play.

~modest

#8 modest

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 01:28 AM

While the possible damage done to the environment in global warming through the combustion of fossil fuels is obviously limited, it may be a mistake to conclude that scarcity alone will prevent a substantial warming. Please read George Monbiot's article "How much fossil fuel can we burn", in which he makes the case that we can only burn (depending on the figures being used) anywhere from 61% of presently identified reserves from now on to 33% of year 2000 known reserves between 2000 and 2050.


Right, I don't think that will be a problem. To think that we could or would burn 50% of the oil reserves we know about in the next 50 years doesn't seem realistic. Peak oil and the availability of clean energy sources makes it exceedingly unlikely that we could use oil at anything like that rate.

The IPCC summary of climate models introduces several scenarios for future CO2 production. Scenario B1 assumes that fossil fuel use will peak around 2050 then decline to today's levels for some time to come. here is a graph.

If emission levels increase, then level out at roughly the level they are at today, then we would expect temperatures to follow the blue line:

Posted Image

But, how likely is that? How likely, given oil production, is it that we will be consuming current levels in 2100? According to that graph we will be using levels from the early 1900's.

I realize that coal and oil are not the only CO2 producers. But, still, it's hard to take these models seriously when they assume something that's impossible and it's hard to get worried about emissions when a major source of emissions is limited and quite-nearly past the point of usefulness.

I very well could be wrong. I've spent more than a little time debating climate science on this site and others, but that doesn't make me an expert. There is either something major that I'm missing or this really is much to do about nothing.

~modest

#9 JMJones0424

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 01:42 AM

Right, I don't think that will be a problem. To think that we could or would burn 50% of the oil reserves we know about in the next 50 years doesn't seem realistic. Peak oil and the availability of clean energy sources makes it exceedingly unlikely that we could use oil at anything like that rate.


Please excuse my poor wording. I tried to summarize and when reading through it now, it seems I did not clearly give the two scenarios he worked out. In Monbiot's words-

Even ignoring all unconventional sources and all other greenhouse gases and taking the most optimistic of the figures in the two Nature papers, we can afford to burn only 61% of known fossil fuel reserves between now and eternity.

Or, using Meinshausen's figure, we can burn only 33% between now and 2050. Sorry - 33% minus however much we have burnt between 2000 and today.



Have you had a chance to look over the figures he is using for his calculations? Do they correspond well with what you have found?

ETA:
The two Nature articles which led Monbiot to quantify what portion of current reserves we can use before we hit the 2oC over pre-industrial temperature mark can be found here:

Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne

We find that the peak warming caused by a given cumulative carbon dioxide emission is better constrained than the warming response to a stabilization scenario. Furthermore, the relationship between cumulative emissions and peak warming is remarkably insensitive to the emission pathway (timing of emissions or peak emission rate). Hence policy targets based on limiting cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide are likely to be more robust to scientific uncertainty than emission-rate or concentration targets. Total anthropogenic emissions of one trillion tonnes of carbon (3.67 trillion tonnes of CO2), about half of which has already been emitted since industrialization began, results in a most likely peak carbon-dioxide-induced warming of 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures, with a 5–95% confidence interval of 1.3–3.9 °C.


Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C

We show that, for the chosen class of emission scenarios, both cumulative emissions up to 2050 and emission levels in 2050 are robust indicators of the probability that twenty-first century warming will not exceed 2 °C relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over 2000–50 to 1,000 Gt CO2 yields a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 °C—and a limit of 1,440 Gt CO2 yields a 50% probability—given a representative estimate of the distribution of climate system properties. As known 2000–06 CO2 emissions were ~234 Gt CO2, less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can still be emitted up to 2050 to achieve such a goal.


If I am reading this correctly, the world "spent" 1/4 (1/6 for 50% chance of exceeding 2oC warming) of its 50 year carbon dioxide budget in the first 6 years of this century. By now we should be about half way through that budget. Of course, I am not even qualified to give an educated opinion on the subject, but it looks like these two papers paint a more dire picture than the IPCC graph you posted.

#10 jhnmichle

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 05:43 AM

Following are major sources of energy.

1. Nuclear Power
2. Compressed Natural Gas
3. Biomass
4. Geothermal Power
5. Radiant Energy

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 02:38 PM

Right, I don't think that will be a problem. To think that we could or would burn 50% of the oil reserves we know about in the next 50 years doesn't seem realistic. Peak oil and the availability of clean energy sources makes it exceedingly unlikely that we could use oil at anything like that rate.

The IPCC summary of climate models introduces several scenarios for future CO2 production. Scenario B1 assumes that fossil fuel use will peak around 2050 then decline to today's levels for some time to come. here is a graph.

If emission levels increase, then level out at roughly the level they are at today, then we would expect temperatures to follow the blue line:

Posted Image

But, how likely is that? How likely, given oil production, is it that we will be consuming current levels in 2100? According to that graph we will be using levels from the early 1900's.

I realize that coal and oil are not the only CO2 producers. But, still, it's hard to take these models seriously when they assume something that's impossible and it's hard to get worried about emissions when a major source of emissions is limited and quite-nearly past the point of usefulness.

I very well could be wrong. I've spent more than a little time debating climate science on this site and others, but that doesn't make me an expert. There is either something major that I'm missing or this really is much to do about nothing.

~modest


I did some rough calculations based on the above figures [Meinhausen] and it seems we need to limit emissions to less than 5GtC/yr., for the next 40 years, if we are to limit temperature rise to <2 degrees C.

We are currently emitting over 8GtC/yr., I think, and we are on track to continue exceeding the A1 scenario, which --while not on the above IPCC graph-- is plotted with a steeper slope, above the A2 scenario.

I think we are on track to be emitting 12-13 GtC/yr by 2020. This will create a peak of over 1200 ppm by 2050 [I'll try to recheck those numbers], and is suggested to lead to a 6 degree C rise (~11 F) by 2100.

I agree that economic pressures will curtail carbon emissions as the 2020's and 2030's unfold, but that puts us way beyond any hope of moderating climate change and keeping it within normal geologic parameters. Do you see economic pressures limiting emission more than that, or much sooner than that?

#12 modest

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 01:48 AM

If I am reading this correctly, the world "spent" 1/4 (1/6 for 50% chance of exceeding 2oC warming) of its 50 year carbon dioxide budget in the first 6 years of this century. By now we should be about half way through that budget. Of course, I am not even qualified to give an educated opinion on the subject, but it looks like these two papers paint a more dire picture than the IPCC graph you posted.

I meant to research the topic before responding, but I've been up to my eyeballs in work and haven't had time so please take everything with a grain of salt...

I think I misunderstood previously both by what Monbiot meant by 'reserves' and the 2 degree rise in temp which would mean 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels. I remember reading somewhere that anthropogenic causes have increased global temps by nearly one degree since the industrial revolution. The IPCC graph looks like it supports that and it would also support the idea that a further one degree rise is quite possible by 2100.

The thing that I find rather unconvincing about the link is the idea that the rate of CO2 emission is not a major factor in the total warming. It says "we can burn, at most, another 400-500 billion tonnes of carbon at any time between now and the extinction of humanity..." :confused:

According to wikipedia, half of yearly anthropogenic CO2 emissions are sequestered* in the carbon cycle. I would tend to think that there is a rate of co2 emissions below which we should not expect a net increase of global average temperatures, otherwise there would be an additive increase in global temps every time a volcano erupted or there was a forest fire... perpetually so to speak.

Nonetheless, we're emitting way above that rate so I guess it's currently a rather moot point.

The question I guess is if the fossil fuel market will crash before, after, or right around the time we hit another degree or so of global warming. I would guess, by looking at the data, that we have another decade or two. Not sure where that leaves us... :shrug:


Personally, I think the greatest incentive to lowering fossil fuel production is to lessen the effect of the oil and coal market crashes themselves. I mean... how could this not scare the hell out of anyone:

Posted Image
http://en.wikipedia....:GrowingGap.jpg

The global economy is mainly supported by something that is very quickly coming to an end. The more gradual the adaptation to renewable energy the better.

#13 modest

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 02:19 AM

I think we are on track to be emitting 12-13 GtC/yr by 2020. This will create a peak of over 1200 ppm by 2050 [I'll try to recheck those numbers], and is suggested to lead to a 6 degree C rise (~11 F) by 2100.


Looking at http://www.energybul....net/node/52460 and similar forecasts, I think the global market would be extremely lucky, if not miraculous, to supply that kind of growth.

~modest

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 10:21 PM

Looking at http://www.energybul....net/node/52460 and similar forecasts, I think the global market would be extremely lucky, if not miraculous, to supply that kind of growth.

~modest

We can hope. That will keep the increase in CO2 constant, so the increased effect on climate would be limited to (a global average of) around 3 degrees C.

#15 Eclipse Now

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 03:51 AM

I'm with you Modest in that this is a very interesting topic. The folks at ASPO conclude that we simply won't be able to hit the exponential growth the IPCC assumes in their models. However, new technologies like Underground Coal Gasification have Monbiot freaked out as well!

It is about the price being right for the incredibly convenient liquid fuel market. I support electric cars charged on clean renewable and/or GenIV nuclear power. Indeed, I really support the New Urbanists designing city plans that drastically reduce the need for cars in the first place! But what about jets? What about larger trucks and harvesters? Liquid fuels are incredibly convenient for these larger markets, and I can see us turning to non-coventional fuels like CTL (Coal-to-liquids) and GTL if peak oil really starts to bite... so my guess is we need to keep the pressure on the Climate Activists to keep doing their thang!

While I’m prepared to believe that oil supplies might decline in the next few years, his coal prediction is hogwash. Energy companies in the UK, as the latest ENDS report shows, are now beginning to deploy a technology that will greatly increase available reserves. Government figures suggest that underground coal gasification – injecting oxygen into coal seams and extracting the hydrogen and methane they release – can boost the UK’s land-based coal reserves 70-fold; and it opens up even more under the seabed. There are vast untapped reserves of other fossil fuels – bitumen, oil shale, methane clathrates – that energy companies will turn to if the price is right.


http://www.guardian....se-civilisation

But it certainly is my favourite comeback to anti-climate Denialists. "What do we do when we RUN OUT of coal"? Even the world coal institute says we'll RUN OUT in 119 years. (Not sure if Underground Coal Gasification is factored into that equation). But as you know long before a resource RUNS OUT, at about the HALF WAY mark, it peaks, and we move from increasing amounts of CHEAP resource to DECREASING production of EVER MORE EXPENSIVE resource.

So when does peak coal hit? That's the question! And people like the DOE's Robert Hirsch recommend we move from oil to coal-to-liquids programs! Yeah, riiight. (Move from one vanishing resource to another? Hmmmm. Questionable logic).

I say we go down the baseload GenIV nuclear pathway RIGHT NOW and let GE build out their S-PRISM prototype and then factory. Then they will EAT nuclear waste and solve global warming and peak oil and our nuclear waste problem all in one hit!

(I also love the idea of New Urbanism, Village Towns, and other low-energy walkable modern city plans. Watch this 2009 TED talk on Village Towns, only 20 minutes. You'll get a buzz! EDIT: Actually, only watch the 20 minute TED talk if you're in a rush, instead watch the one UNDER that that goes for 40 minutes. Download it to your hard-drive to watch. It starts off slow and a little incomprehensible with the old guy, but you can fast forward through his speech if you wish.)

See TED talk over on right.
http://villageforum....d=97&Itemid=104

#16 geko

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:14 AM

That talk just sounds like common romanticism, wrapped up under the mystical logic of marxism. Tell me, how are we going to get a company to invest in this 'out of town' atomised industrial plant? How are we going to get them to stay there and not expand globally? How are we going to get people to give up there mass consumption? And why should they? At the point of a gun no doubt. It also starts with a faulty premise that what we have now is somehow wrong or mistaken. Err, no. What we have now is the result of numerous fits and starts of various endeavours based on the profit motive in trying to provide consumers with what they want and need. Those who's production was conducive to the masses wishes survived. Those who did not, didn't. We, everyone of us, have built what we have with the vote of our wallet. It cannot get more right.

"Each resident in the villagetown will be aiming toward a shared goal and common good"… straight out of the communist manifesto. Of course, when our motives get out of sync and need realigning we'll just ask the fairies for help, right? The arrogance of ideologues is astounding.

...aimed at the talk and information, not any individual.

This discussion is interesting, i really don't think it should be polluted with mumbo-jumbo.

#17 Eclipse Now

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:34 AM

Is it communist to retire to an old folks retirement village that might have a community garden and pool (or is that 'collective' garden and 'collective' pool? ;) ) Of course not.

Now tell me, who designs the suburb where you live? If a developer wants to rock up and start digging around and building stuff, who do they go to? Your local county authority? And what citizen involvement is there in the local county authority? Do citizens have the right to vote on what developments can go ahead and what can't based on considerations of 'history' and 'culture' and 'appeal'?

Think of this Village Town idea as a new type of Urban PLAN (yes, there's the terrifying word) just as you yourself live in the UK and have to submit to the local, democratically arrived at planning authorities.

The Village Towns will be funded by investors moving in to their own homes. They'll go there BECAUSE THEY AGREE with the town plans — no one is forcing them. (Or do you disagree with retirement villages and if we come right down to it Strata-Title as 'Communists'? How paranoid are you?)

They'll go there because they want their kids to be able to play outside without worries about being hit by cars. When they want a car, they'll walk to the edge of their village and get in one! But for the vast majority of their time they won't NEED one just as some grandpa doesn't need a car to get around in his retirement village, or take a walk in his garden, or go to the local shop or barber or pool or community hall or church. Again, are retirement villages communist? :angry:

When they have enough people to build their first VT, they'll rock up to some county in America and say, "We have a billion or 2 we want to invest nearby. Interested?" And everyone that moves in there are doing so of their own free will because they WANT to live that way. It is democracy in action. They'll have 20 Villages of 500 people (or 10,000 people per Village Town). They will have village elections for the town "Mayor" or "Steward" and it will probably be more transparent and more democratic than the county YOU live in right now!

. We, everyone of us, have built what we have with the vote of our wallet. It cannot get more right.


So where are the car-free town plans? I want to buy into one! Can you see how you've just contradicted yourself? Either VillageTowns will find a marketplace and meet a market need and attract buyers or they won't. But once in, they'll have 80% of their money and income going around and around inside their Village Town and they'll have less unemployment issues and more security and immunity from global ups and downs as a result. They'll have their own bank! They'll work in largely market principles, except for the 'parallel real estate' that helps guarantee the right mix of lower income professions in the village.

Basically, I can't wait to see the first Village Town get built and then watch the documentaries hit the airwaves about it! I bet you'll see a community feeling and loyalty develop unlike anything in but the smallest of rural hamlets.