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by John Brian Shannon | December 29, 2015
COP21: The Paris Agreement is nothing if it isn’t followed-up with concrete action to meet the new emission reduction targets
The COP21 Paris Agreement is the first time that many nations have declared their intent to actually do something in regards to global warming, instead of the vague expressions and hand-wringing that we’ve seen until Paris 2015.
One should rightfully expect that LEADERS from each nation will appear at future COP events to discuss their nations’ successes (and any legitimate failures) as they navigate towards their intended carbon targets.
1. Some nations will seek to meet their COP21 targets via greater ENERGY EFFICIENCY
And that of course, is the best ‘bang for the buck’ route with regards to energy use and CO2 reduction.
No matter how energy is produced, some amount of CO2 will be created. Therefore, each MegaWatt(MW) of energy that remains unused, results in zero CO2 emissions.
This can also be the case where a mixed grid employs clean, renewable energy.
Both solar and wind power feature zero emissions as standalone energy generators — however, in a mixed grid with various energy generators, from coal to nuclear, to gas-fired and biomass, and true renewables like hydro-electric, solar and wind — once all of the renewable energy capacity is exceeded, the other electricity generators must then ramp-up to match the total demand of those hours of the day.
See how utility companies choose the type of energy they use to meet electrical demand on a minute-by-minute basis: Merit Order – How Utility Companies Choose Energy
With increased energy efficiency, many MW of electricity will never be required in the first place, therefore, the need for non-renewable energy generation diminishes.
2. LEAVING COAL is the next best way to meet carbon reduction targets
Many people are unaware that natural gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than the dirtiest brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest black coal (anthracite).
Non-CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: Quite apart from Carbon Dioxide emissions, burning coal produces significant amounts of toxic airborne mercury and heavy metal vapours, and toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and the lung-damaging particulates like smoke, ash, and soot.
Then there are the thousands of tons (Alberta only) or millions of tons (globally) of fly ash that must be transported and safely buried far from aquifers.
Obscene water usage levels are also a factor with coal use, as coal requires 1100 gallons of water per MW, while natural gas requires only 300 gallons per MW.
CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: In regards to the Carbon-Dioxide-only component of airborne emissions, burning natural gas emits only 45% of the CO2 compared to coal on a per MW basis.
By simply converting every coal power plant in the world to natural gas, global CO2 and toxic airborne emissions would fall by many Gigatonnes.
I suggest that it’s an important enough goal that IMF, ADB, UNDP and UNEP money should be flowing to developing nations to help them convert to natural gas by 2020.
Yes, I said by 2020.
We’re either serious, or we’re enjoying our time at the COP confabs.
It’s time to actually accomplish something on the Earth Atmosphere file, instead of producing more sound bites.
Harvard University Medicine says that coal-fired power generation causes up to half a trillion dollars of damage annually to the U.S. economy. Maybe more. And that’s just in the U.S.A.
3. Coal could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem – via significant investment in Coal-to-Liquid (CTL) fuels
Since 1955, South African gasoline (petrol) has been blended with super clean CTL fuel — which has a measurable and positive effect on vehicle emissions in the country.
The percentage of CTL to petrol has been rising over the decades as CTL capacity has increased. SASOL now blends a minimum of 30% CTL fuel into their petrol, which results in a very clean burn and lower engine maintenance.
Some South African airlines use clean CTL (coal oil) as a simple drop-in replacement for conventional petroleum (kerosene) fuel. Unlike conventional aviation fuel, CTL fuel is completely smokeless (and, bonus!) jet engines using CTL fuel require less maintenance.
CTL fuel blends reduce CO2 emissions for aircraft and cars and light trucks by 50% — and non-CO2 airborne emissions such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter (smoke and soot) are virtually eliminated.
Thanks to the FISCHER-TROPSCH (catalytic) process, super clean-burning CTL fuels can be created from even the dirtiest brown coal.
4. We can’t have enough renewable energy capacity, especially now that it has attained price parity with conventional energy
As a long term goal, we need to get to 50% renewable energy and 50% (any combination of natural gas and nuclear) for our primary energy generation in order to hit a reasonable CO2 target of 366PPM (the much advertised 350PPM CO2 target is noble, just that it’s utterly impossible to hit as long as there are 7 billion people on the planet) yet 366PPM is theoretically possible were all the stars were to align, and is a noble enough goal in itself.
Many nations have already hit their renewable energy targets, with some exceeding 90% of demand met by renewable energy.
Laos, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Mozambique, Iceland, Albania, Paraguay, Bhutan, Lesotho, Tokelau, all get more than 90% of their primary energy from renewable sources.
Some are now at, or very close to, 100% renewable energy. For instance, Costa Rica hit the 99% renewable energy mark this year. In 2016, Costa Rica is likely to become a renewable energy exporter.
Denmark produced 140% of its primary energy demand in 2015 with renewable energy. Some 40% of Denmark’s electricity was exported to neighbouring countries in exchange for for cold. hard, cash.
And Scotland hit its 2030 target (50% renewable energy) way back in 2014. At the rate Scotland is adding renewable energy to its main grid and microgids, it may reach 100% renewable energy before 2040.
So it can be done.
SUMMARY: If we as a species, simply increase our total energy efficiency by 30% (a reasonable target) and legislate all coal-fired power generation to convert to natural gas by 2020 (merely accelerating what is already occurring due to market forces) and continue our present level of coal extraction for the purposes of creating super-clean CTL fuels, we would (by those changes alone) give ourselves an extra 15 years to find the best solutions to our pressing airborne emissions problem.
Again, the IMF, ADB, UNDP, UNEP, U.S. Dept of Energy, the EPA, COP21 sponsors, the World Bank and major corporations should be setting a good example with massive investment.
Finally, thanks to Bill Gates for his LEADERSHIP and PHILANTHROPY not only at COP21, but over the past decades — directly improving the lives of many people on this planet and supporting real and positive change in our shared global commons.
- Adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21 (UNFCCC)
- The Paris Approach to Global Governance (Project Syndicate)
- Bill Gates Leads Billionaires in $2 Billion Climate Investment (Bloomberg)
by Guest Contributor Jeff Spross
It turns out the White House and major American businesses may be converging on how to assess the damage greenhouse gas emissions do to the global climate.
According to a new report by the environmental data company CDP, in 2013 at least 29 companies either based or operating in the United States factored a price on carbon into their long-term business planning. And in 2010, the Obama Administration released the government’s estimates for that same price, to be used as a factor in rulemaking decisions by federal agencies.
The global warming driven by human-caused carbon emissions will come various results, including droughts, floods, heat waves, shifting weather patterns, stronger storms, disrupted food supplies and rising seas. The purpose of the price in both instances is to quantify the economic costs of those effects.
Significantly, the companies using an internal carbon price include the five oil giants — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, and Shell — along with other notables like Google, Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, DuPont, and Delta Air Lines.
The specific prices they estimated were also striking: $40 per ton of carbon emissions for BP; $60 for ExxonMobil, and $40 for Shell. Xcel Energy pegged it at $20, Walt Disney at $10 to $20, and ConocoPhillips’ estimate ran anywhere from $8 to $46 depending on various factors. The U.S. government’s midline estimates were $37 and $57 for 2015. CDP also reviewed the carbon prices already in place in other countries around the world, which generally fell into the same range — and in a few instances much lower and higher.
Currently, the United States does not put any price on carbon. The International Monetary Fund estimates that failure effectively subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $502 billion annually — the biggest of any country in the world. The result is a massive market distortion, because the costs of climate change are not being factored into the daily decisions and transactions of everyone in the economy. The most direct way to place a price on carbon is either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system like the one Congress considered in 2009 and then abandoned. But the regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants would implicitly, if not directly, place a price on those emissions as well.
Of course, the businesses’ use of an internal carbon price is an act of self-interest rather than advocacy. CMS Energy Corporation, for instance, noted it factored into its decision to start up a natural gas power plant, and to begin shuttering several coal-fired ones. And the CDP report quotes many of the companies emphasizing the price’s use as a guide in investment and other decisions.
“It’s climate change as a line item,” Tom Carnac, North American president of CDP, told the New York Times. “They’re looking at it from a rational perspective, making a profit. It drives internal decision-making.”
Publicly, some of these companies — ExxonMobil in particular — have been long-time skeptics of climate change, and have financially supported efforts to beat back the policies aimed at addressing it. Many of those companies are also regular contributors to the Republican party, which opposes efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and has sought to derail the White House’s carbon price. Consequently, many observers on both sides of the issue see the companies’ internal use of a carbon price as a significant break between business’ practical self-interest and the ideological position of the GOP and its conservative supporters — a sign the concrete financial infrastructure that supports opposition to climate policy is simply tiring out.
Across the financial world, there’s growing concern that massive amounts of money are invested in fossil fuel reserves that can never be exploited. Bloomberg LP recently released a financial tool to help investors calculate their carbon risk, while movements across the United States and other countries are pushing institutions to disentangle themselves from fossil fuel production. Various carbon-pricing mechanisms are already operating in numerous countries, and the growth of renewable energy continues to rocket upwards. In other words, the need to account for carbon emissions’ climate damage is no longer seen as a mere internal question of government policy — it’s taking on a collective life of its own.
Being hard-nosed business leaders, Exxon Mobil, BP, Google, and all the rest of them are simply acknowledging that reality.
This article, Walmart, Exxon, BP, Walt Disney, & 25 Other Top Companies Put A Price On Global Warming Pollution, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.
United Nations “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due next month. The leaks are already here.
Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.
That is up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and just over 50 in 1995, steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame.
This is a doubly impressive story since, as we’ve reported, Reuters has slashed climate coverage and pressured reporters to include false balance. Leading climatologists who have seen drafts of the report confirm this story’s accuracy.
Of course, nothing in the report should be a surprise to readers of Climate Progress, since the AR5 is just a (partial) review of the scientific literature (see my 12/11 post, It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was). The draft AR5 confirms that natural forces played a very small role in warming since 1950, which again means that human activity is highly likely be a source of virtually all of the recent warming.
I say the AR5 is a “partial” review that is “hopefully” the last because, like every IPCC report, it is an instantly out-of-date snapshot that lowballs future warming because it continues to ignore large parts of the recent literature and omit what it can’t model. For instance, we have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the thawing of the northern permafrost. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment climate models completely ignore it, thereby lowballing likely warming this century.
In terms of real world warming and its impact on humans, the ECS is a mostly theoretical and oversimplified construct — like the so-called spherical cow. The ECS tells you how much warming you would get IF we started slashing emissions asap and stabilized carbon dioxide concentrations in the air around 550 parts per million (they are currently at 400 ppm, rising over 2 ppm a year, and accelerating) — AND IF there were no slow feedbacks like the defrosting permafrost.
The climate however is not a spherical cow. Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. And a 2012 study found that the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost alone will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.
So the alarming disruption in our previously stable, civilization-supporting climate depicted in the top figure is our future. On our current emissions path, the main question the ECS answers is whether 9°F warming happens closer to 2080, 2100, or 2120 — hardly a cause for any celebration. Quite the reverse. Warming beyond 7F is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level,” as climate expert Kevin Anderson explains here.
Dr. Michael Mann emailed me:
The report is simply an exclamation mark on what we already knew: Climate change is real and it continues unabated, the primary cause is fossil fuel burning, and if we don’t do something to reduce carbon emissions we can expect far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts on us and our environment in the decades to come.
As for the seeming slowdown in global warming, that turns out to be only true if one looks narrowly at surface air temperatures, where only a small fraction of warming ends up. Arctic sea ice melt has accelerated. Disintegration of the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica has sped up. The rate of sea level rise has doubled from last century.
Finally, very recent studies of the ocean, which has absorbed the vast majority of the heat, also show global warming has accelerated in the past 15 years. Sadly, the AR5 appears to have stopped considering new scientific findings before the publication of this research.
Reuters notes that climate scientists are “finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades.” This regional uncertainty is not surprising but still quite alarming. Indeed, it is a key reason adaptation to climate change is so much more difficult and expensive than simply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
After all, if you don’t know where the next super-storm or super-heatwave is going to hit, you pretty much have to prepare everywhere. As a major 2011 study by Sandia National Laboratory concluded, “It is the uncertainty associated with climate change that validates the need to act protectively and proactively.”
That study found because of “climate uncertainty as it pertains to rainfall alone, the U.S. economy is at risk of losing” a trillion dollars and 7 million American jobs over the next several decades.
On this point, climatologist Kevin Trenberth e-mailed me:
“We can confidently say that the risk of drought and heat waves has gone up and the odds of a hot spot somewhere on the planet have increased but the hotspot moves around and the location is not very predictable. This year perhaps it is East Asia: China, or earlier Siberia? It has been much wetter and cooler in the US (except for SW), whereas last year the hot spot was the US. Earlier this year it was Australia (Tasmania etc) in January (southern summer). We can name spots for all summers going back quite a few years: Australia in 2009, the Russian heat wave in 2010, Texas in 2011, etc. Similarly with risk of high rains and floods: They are occurring but the location moves.”
The point is, we know that many kinds of off-the-charts extreme weather events will get more intense, longer lasting, and more frequent — in fact, they already are. But we don’t know exactly where and when they will hit, which means adaptation requires pretty much everybody, everywhere to plan the worst-case. Just when you think the Jersey shore is very unlikely to be hit by a superstorm, along comes Sandy.
I very much doubt the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will move the needle on climate action because of its inadequacies; because the media has scaled back climate coverage and let go of its best climate reporters; and because the fossil fuel funded disinformation campaign will try to exploit those first two problems to make it seem like this report gives us less to worry about, when it simply underscores what we have known for a quarter-century. Continued inaction on climate change risks the end of modern civilization as we know it.
This article, New IPCC Report Leaked A Bit: Humans Causing Global Warming & Global Warming Consequences Speeding Up, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.