Climate & Energy

Let me boil it down for you ...

When additionality always matters

Sean Casten and Adam Stein have been discussing when it is important that a carbon savings be additional -- that is, when it is important that we not pay for a saving that would have happened anyway. You guys are making this way more complicated than it needs to be. Iron-clad additionality is critical when you're selling a permission for someone else to pollute. If you are reducing emissions, generating a financial instrument from that fact, and then selling it to someone else to use as a substitute for reducing their own emissions, your reduction had damn well better be additional. Otherwise, you are almost certainly increasing pollution. You're welcome.

Mysterious new pro-coal organization

ABECC

Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 1

We’ll need a lot of Socolow and Pacala’s wedges

The short answer is: "Not today -- not even close." The long answer is the subject of this post. Regular readers know that the nation and the world currently lack the political will to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 450 ppm or even 550 ppm. The political impossibility is also obvious from anyone familiar with Princeton's "stabilization wedges" [PDF] -- and if you aren't, you should be (technical paper here [PDF], less technical one here [PDF]). The wedges are a valuable conceptual tool for showing the immense scale needed for the solution (although they have analytical flaws). Of course, if solving the climate problem were politically possible today, I would have found something more useful to do with my time (as, I expect, would you). But 450 ppm or lower is certainly achievable from an economic and technological perspective. Indeed, that is the point of the wedges discussion, since they rely on existing technology, and the conclusion to Hell and High Water. The purpose of my last post on the adaptation trap was to make clear that 800 to 1,000 ppm, which is where we are headed, is a catastrophe ar beyond human imagining, one that makes a mockery of the word "adaptation," that has a "cost" far beyond that considered by any traditional economic cost-benefit analysis. It is a rationally and morally impossible choice. So too, I think, is 550 ppm, assuming we could stop there -- which as I argued, we probably can't, thanks to the carbon cycle feedbacks like the melting tundra. What needs to be done?

Gore-y climate ads are coming soon to a TV near you

While it is not true that Al Gore is running for president (honestly, how do these rumors get started?), it is true that his Alliance for Climate Protection has officially launched a new “we” campaign. The ad campaign aims to spend $300 million over three years to create a sense of both urgency and solvability around the climate crisis. The first ad hits TVs on Wednesday, likening the fight against climate change to historical efforts including civil rights and the moon landing. Future ads will aim to dispel the myth that climate is a partisan issue, cozying up unlikely allies …

Air capture 101

Potentially a long-term option for putting waste heat to use

RealClimate has a good introductory post on air capture, which they explain as: The idea would be to let people emit the carbon dioxide at the source but then capture it directly from the atmosphere at a separate facility. This is going to be a relatively expensive and complicated strategy for decades -- and, of course, you need a place to put the carbon dioxide. That said, a lot of work is going on to see if one can do air capture driven by heat. Why does that matter? The world has a lot of zero carbon waste heat not currently being used for anything. Indeed, U.S. thermal power plants alone throw away as much energy in waste heat as Japan uses for every purpose! That's more than 20 quads. And that doesn't even count the heat thrown away in industrial processes. Now, the smartest thing to do with that heat, for the next few decades, is obviously either generate electricity with it or use it for heating buildings or industrial processes.

The forgotten solution

Transit investment should and will be a part of the peak oil solution

Joseph Romm has made a number of very good points in his new Salon piece (and accompanying Gristmill post) on the problem of peak oil. He is, in my view, quite correct that oil prices will continue to increase based on supply and demand fundamentals. He is right that alternative oil source development would be a monumental mistake, and that biofuels are unlikely to be much help either. And I’d like to strongly associate myself with his statement that a solution to the climate problem is also a solution to the peak oil problem. But I strongly disagree with him …

Protesters arrested outside N.C. coal plant

Eight protesters were Tased and arrested after locking themselves to bulldozers at a Duke Energy coal plant in North Carolina Tuesday morning. Activists say the plant under construction is, in short, a terrible idea. “In the face of catastrophic climate change, building a new coal plant is tantamount to signing a death sentence for our generation,” said one protester. Umbrella group Rising Tide organized the protest, as well as other direct action in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom for “Fossil Fools Day.”

Stuff kills

Chinese miners and our appetite for cheap crap

As the United States has outsourced its industrial base to China over the last two decades, millions of manufacturing jobs have disappeared. But the trend has also allowed us to shed a lot of unpleasantness: industrial waste, air pollution, etc. The move also eased the burden on our electrical grid. The energy needed to produce clothes, electrical gadgets, industrial equipment, etc. no longer comes from our power generators. But greenhouse gases are a fungible substance; coal emissions in China trap just as much heat as emissions in Youngstown, Ohio. And the hazards and environmental devastation of coal mining merely shift. …

The adaptation trap 2: The not-so-honest broker

More on Roger Pielke, Jr.

In Part 1, we saw that ... Adaptation as primary strategy for dealing with climate change is widely oversold. This is especially true as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 800 to 1,000 ppm, a likely outcome if we listen to either the delayers or deniers. A leading adaptation advocate and apparent delayer-1000, Roger Pielke, Jr., "labels adaptation what is in fact mitigation, and his idea of mitigation is apparently research into adaptation." Let me elaborate on these points. The day before the dubious pro-adaptation L.A. Times piece, one of Pielke's fellow Prometheus bloggers, Jonathan Gilligan, pointed out, "if our political system stinks at managing floods, coastal storm risks, and fresh-water resources in the absence of anthropogenic climate change, why would it manage better if climate change does turn out to significantly increase the mean severity and/or variance of the distribution?"