Unavoidable Answer for the Problem of Climate Change

Nov 22nd, 2013 | By | Category: Climate Change

Japan’s announcement last week that it would not meet its promise to sharply reduce its carbon emissions met a chorus of disapproval from around the world.

Delegates at the international climate talks in Warsaw, which end Friday, lamented Japan’s move as a blow to worldwide efforts to slow global warming. In the Philippines, which is still collecting the dead from Typhoon Hayan, it served as yet another example of the indifference of the rich world to the plight of the world’s poorest nations on the front lines of climate change.

For more on this story, visit: Unavoidable Answer for the Problem of Climate Change – NYTimes.com.

Henry Auer copied us in on his response to the above article:

There must be a role for renewable energy in the world’s future energy mix.   Humanity must migrate away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.
There is no technology currently available to remove CO2 from the atmosphere once emitted.  Thus new emissions must be prevented, because, as the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report shows, world average temperatures rise essentially linearly with CO2 levels.  A major consequence of this increase is rising sea levels.  As long as the air over ice sheets remains above freezing, ice will melt and the seas will rise.  The IPCC’s scenarios for sea level rise up to 2300 are truly alarming for future humanity.  Consequences over land are also projected to be severe.  In sum, it is critical to limit warming to as low a new, higher, temperature as possible.  The world can never go back to earlier, lower temperature limits.

Coal, oil and gas must be phased out absent industrial-scale carbon capture and storage technology, imposed on new facilities as well as retrofitted to existing power plants.  RD&D on CCS is woefully underfunded.

The statistics you quote for lifetime costs of power are unclear whether the nuclear estimate includes subsidies.  Here in the U. S. the nuclear power industry has been heavily subsidized for decades.  Worldwide, fossil fuel use is heavily subsidized.

Nuclear power can never be a viable alternative until the issue of storing nuclear waste in permanent repositories is resolved.  Here in the U. S. we face the powerful Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome for nuclear waste, which led to the unfortunate termination of the Yucca Mountain repository after billions of dollars of investment.  Nuclear plants cannot indefinitely store spent fuel in “temporary” pools, because the lifetime of the radiation sought to be dissipated endures for tens of thousands to millions of years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#Management_of_waste), long after we may be able to propagate records to our progeny.
You cite the expense of transmission lines from renewable energy farms to consumers.  But all other power sources face similar problems.  Nuclear plants are not sited in the midst of cities, requiring transmission lines.  Coal power plants have “transmission” lines, called railroads, for bringing coal to the plant.  Oil refineries require the “transmission” expense of shipping oil from deep sea rigs and of piping oil from land-based oil fields.  The Keystone XL pipeline segment is reportedly priced at $7 billion, but its earlier portions experienced about 100% cost overruns.  I have calculated (http://warmgloblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-keystone-xl-pipeline-would.html) that $10 billion diverted from building the pipeline to a wind farm could provide 1,420 2MW turbines and 1,563 miles of a 765kV transmission line.  Renewable energy would benefit greatly from consistent, long-term subsidies.
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