Archive for October, 2005

Spend the Money

Monday, October 31st, 2005

People in climate change frequently emphasize that rich countries can afford to pay the cost of climate change, while for some countries, the costs are expected to exceed their GDP.

However, while we in rich countries can afford the bills, it should be emphasized as well that some of us resent the money it takes to mitigate or pay the cost of environmental disasters. Just because we can afford the costs of our behavior doesn’t mean that we will pay them.

Neglecting for now issues of Louisiana pork and how more than sufficient pork means insufficient funds for real needs, money spent strengthening levees and protecting wetlands would have been less costly. Better local and national laws and enforcement could have limited coastal development. It costs money to protect the environment and thereby the ecosystem services they provide, but it also means saying no, we can’t live everywhere we want and engage in whatever activities give us pleasure.

Now the bill for the Great Lakes has come due. $20 billion, or $70/person. Don’t say that it can come out of missile defense which none but its advocates believe has any chance of working, or out of subsidies for oil companies, or Alaskan transportation pork — that money is needed elsewhere.

One fifth of fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes. It is home to ecosystems in two countries and many states, and is as well a site many birds visit in stopovers.

It’s a poor assumption that we can allow large ecosystems such as wetlands and lakes to be destroyed. We’re going to have to pay the cost, because the costs of not repairing these ecosystems are likely to be much higher. Just as homeowners need to schedule roof maintenance and repair, or the costs will be higher, it is important for our nation to schedule ecosystem maintenance and repair. Assuming these costs will come due and that they must be paid will hopefully improve governance at both regional and national levels.

Is any group considering taxing industries (eg, shipping) that contribute so heavily to these problems?

For more on zebra mussels, check out USGS’s factsheet (PDF).

Carpool incentive?

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Is a carpool incentive available to you?

Someone showed me a pretty strong incentive from Contra Costa Transportation Authority (north of Berkeley): by agreeing to carpool twice a week for 8 weeks, each person is receiving gift cards worth $60 to pay for the gasoline.

Check out what’s available to you in your area.

Power Hunting

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

For a quick synopsis of some energy issues, with a focus on the US and CA (and work done in Berkeley), check out Power Hunting in California magazine. See also the interview with Steven Chu.

Don’t miss the section about 100 new coal plants expected to come online by 2020.

In the same issue, China Charging Up discusses Chinese investments in wind to coal. China is investing heavily in non-carbon technologies, and is currently installing a coal plant a week.

In Listening to Katrina, Ray Seed discusses what earthquakes can do to CA water: “Roughly once every 200 years – which is stunningly the same number as New Orleans-an earthquake will hit Northern California badly enough that we cannot resume water shipments for a year or more to 18 million Southern Californians.”

MA: Humans are Changing Ecosystems Rapidly

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

It is very difficult to emotionally absorb what we are doing to our world. Some 10-30% of mammal, bird, and amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and pretty much every other source have been telling us for years. Our work is to find ways to hear what is being said in reports like the MA, to really listen, and then to find ways to move beyond the paralysis of fear and guilt to do what we need to do.

Scientists credit the 1950s as the beginning of the 6th mass extinction since complex life began. National Geographic addresses this topic in The Fragile Web: “The sixth extinction is not happening because of some external force. It is happening because of us, Homo sapiens.”

You may wish to download or purchase Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report or other reports yourself. I’ve excerpted some of the report below, but you have to go to the report to see figure 3 to see the Conversion of Terrestrial Biomes. “Biome is the largest unit of ecological classification that is convenient to recognize below the entire globe, such as temperate broadleaf forests or montane grasslands.”

Notes: Mangrove forests are important areas of biodiversity. They also protect areas from storms: the 2004 tsunami inflicted less damage on areas with intact mangrove forests; similarly, the destruction of wetlands has led to years of predictions that New Orleans would be more vulnerable to hurricanes. Mangrove forests are being destroyed in order to create 5- year shrimp farms or for development. According to Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, even over the lifetime of the shrimp farms, conversion may not be good economic value if ecosystem services are considered.

The concentration of atmospheric carbon is now 380 parts per million, and is on track to reach 400 ppm by 2015.

From Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report:

Finding #1: Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.

The structure and functioning of the world’s ecosystems changed more rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century than at any time in human history.

_ More land was converted to cropland since 1945 than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries combined. Cultivated systems (areas where at least 30% of the landscape is in croplands, shifting cultivation, confined livestock production, or freshwater aquaculture) now cover one quarter of Earth’s terrestrial surface.
_ Approximately 20% of the world’s coral reefs were lost and an additional 20% degraded in the last several decades of the twentieth century, and approximately 35% of mangrove area was lost during this time.
_ The amount of water impounded behind dams quadrupled since 1960, and three to six times as much water is held in reservoirs as in natural rivers. Water withdrawals from rivers and lakes doubled since 1960; most water use (70% worldwide) is for agriculture.
_ Since 1960, flows of reactive (biologically available) nitrogen in terrestrial ecosystems have doubled, and flows of phosphorus have tripled. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which was first manufactured in 1913, ever used on the planet has been used since 1985.
_ Since 1750, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 32% (from about 280 to 376 parts per million in 2003), primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels and land use changes. Approximately 60% of that increase (60 parts per million) has taken place since 1959.

Humans are fundamentally, and to a significant extent irreversibly, changing the diversity of life on Earth, and most of these changes represent a loss of biodiversity.

_ More than two thirds of the area of 2 of the world’s 14 major terrestrial biomes and more than half of the area of four other biomes had been converted by 1990, primarily to agriculture. (See Figure 3.)
_ Across a range of taxonomic groups, either the population size or range or both of the majority of species is currently declining.
_ The distribution of species on Earth is becoming more homogenous; in other words, the set of species in any one region of the world is becoming more similar to the set in other regions primarily as a result of introductions of species, both intentionally and inadvertently in association with increased travel and shipping.
_ The number of species on the planet is declining. Over the past few hundred years, humans have increased the species extinction rate by as much as 1,000 times over background rates typical over the planet’s history (medium certainty). Some 10-30% of mammal, bird, and amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction (medium to high certainty). Freshwater ecosystems tend to have the highest proportion of species threatened with extinction.
_ Genetic diversity has declined globally, particularly among cultivated species.

Most changes to ecosystems have been made to meet a dramatic growth in the demand for food, water, timber, fiber, and fuel.

[M]ost ecosystem changes were the direct or indirect result of changes made to meet growing demands for ecosystem services, and in particular growing demands for food, water, timber, fiber, and fuel (fuelwood and hydropower). Between 1960 and 2000, the demand for ecosystem services grew significantly as world population doubled to 6 billion people and the global economy increased more than sixfold. To meet this demand, food production increased by roughly two-and-a-half times, water use doubled, wood harvests for pulp and paper production tripled, installed hydropower capacity doubled, and timber production increased by more than half.

Update: Conversion of Terrestrial Biomes is posted on the web

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, part 1

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an international program designed to provide scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding to those changes. The recently released reports were the work of many hundreds of natural and social scientists.

Walter Reid, head of the core writing team, spoke at UC, Berkeley Wednesday on the central ideas. The work was anthropocentric: focusing on how behavior with short-term benefits has undermined the longer-term ability of the Earth to nurture us.

Both population and per capita consumption have risen rapidly in the past 50 –100 years. This statement looks more impressive on a graph where you see a more or less constant population for many centuries, then doubling in the last 50 years and still-rapid increasing. Per capita consumption is rising even faster, so that economic growth has increased by 5x since 1950.

There are social justice issues, as poor people depend more on ecosystem services than do the rich – that is, poor people get their fish locally.

Ecosystems provide us food, fresh water, wood and fiber and fuel. They regulate the cimate, floods, disease, and water purification. They provide aesthetic, spiritual, educational, and recreational services.

The direct drivers of change are changes in local land use and cover; species introduction or removal; technology adaptation and use; external inputs such as fertilizer, pest control, and irrigation; harvest and resources consumption; climate change and natural drivers such as evolution and volcanoes.

The MA Synthesis Report highlights four main findings:

* Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any other period. This was done largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. More land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after 1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, first made in 1913, ever used on the planet has been used since 1985. Experts say that this resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in diversity of life on Earth, with some 10 to 30 percent of the mammal, bird and amphibian species currently threatened with extinction.

* Ecosystem changes that have contributed substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development have been achieved at growing costs in the form of degradation of other services. Only four ecosystem services have been enhanced in the last 50 years: increases in crop, livestock and aquaculture production, and increased carbon sequestration for global climate regulation. Two services – capture fisheries and fresh water – are now well beyond levels that can sustain current, much less future, demands. Experts say that these problems will substantially diminish the benefits for future generations.

* The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. In all the four plausible futures explored by the scientists, they project progress in eliminating hunger, but at far slower rates than needed to halve number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. Experts warn that changes in ecosystems such as deforestation influence the abundance of human pathogens such as malaria and cholera, as well as the risk of emergence of new diseases. Malaria, for example, accounts for 11 percent of the disease burden in Africa and had it been eliminated 35 years ago, the continent’s gross domestic product would have increased by $100 billion.

* The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands can be met under some scenarios involving significant policy and institutional changes. However, these changes will be large and are not currently under way. The report mentions options that exist to conserve or enhance ecosystem services that reduce negative trade-offs or that will positively impact other services. Protection of natural forests, for example, not only conserves wildlife but also supplies fresh water and reduces carbon emissions.

Where do environmentalists get their analyses?

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

Two people separately sent me this from an interview with Frances Beinecke, incoming head of Natural Resources Defense Council:

You didn’t mention nuclear. There have been calls by some in the environmental movement to rethink opposition to nuclear power, in light of the greater threat posed by greenhouse gases. Do you agree?

We’ve looked at nuclear, but we continue to think it has serious problems. One is economic. If nuclear power could compete in the marketplace without major subsidies from Congress, it would be an interesting thing to look at. But that’s not what the industry is proposing. And the waste problem is not solved. We haven’t figured out what to do with the waste. Until they do that and can compete economically, we don’t think it’s a major part of the equation.

But you’re not suggesting that we hold, say, solar power to the same standard of competing economically without subsidies, are you?

Solar power is a new source. We think subsidies or assistance from the federal government should go to the new technologies that need to come to the market. Nuclear has been around for a long time. When you and I were in college, it was going to be the key to the future, but it hasn’t turned out that way.

While I look at what environmental groups say primarily to see how well public understanding tracks scientific understanding, many consider environmental groups to be a good source of information.

There seem to me to be three ways NRDC and other groups get information: find out what those with the best understanding are saying, misunderstand the same, or make up ideas out of thin air. To those who read environmental groups for your information, how do you distinguish among these possibilities?

My own particular rule, based on years of reading environmentalists, is that environmental groups are much better at addressing our behavior and the result of our behavior, than at addressing what “they” do. Attacking what “they” do yields big bucks, and failure to attack what “they” do will probably lose subscribers. If NRDC were to look into nuclear power in more detail and decide that they are wasting everyone’s time in attacking it, enthusiasts will contribute more money next year to competitor organizations.

I’m a numbers person, and I notice that Beinecke doesn’t compare the numbers she expects to die from the “unsolved problem” of nuclear waste with the numbers who might die from the unsolved problems of fossil-fuel waste. Since about two million Americans have died since Three Mile Island from fossil-fuel waste (just the particulates, not counting carbon, NOx, sulfates, ozone, mercury and other heavy metals) according to NRDC’s own figures, that’s a pretty large omission.

Beinecke, and pretty much everyone, follows claims that nuclear power is non-competitive with calls for solar, but it is possible that solar power will never be able to compete economically against coal sans subsidies or carbon or pollution taxes. Coal’s high costs (and that of oil) should be internalized, we pay enormously in terms of agriculture, health, and the lives of many humans and species. Internalizing the high costs of fossil fuels will make less-polluting and lower carbon energy sources, including both nuclear and solar, more attractive. No one in energy policy recommends that solar should ever need to hold it’s economic own against coal plants allowed to belch carbon and pollutants into the atmosphere, and it’s bad for the health of people and the Earth to insist that nuclear should. That said, the subsidies offered nuclear power are meant to protect the first three nuclear power plants against potentially high costs of Nuclear Regulatory Commission adding regulations during or after construction. Once NRC has finalized its rules, nuclear power plants are expected to compete without subsidies.

Perhaps a quarter of the public, particularly people who remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, is attached to opposing nuclear power. This attachment is neither healthy for us nor the Earth. First, it allows us to put ourselves into the “good guys” camp without actually doing anything good. Secondly, people have died from our focus on nuclear power. Something like a hundred or more coal power plants are being planned in the US, and public opposition to nuclear power and Yucca Mountain is part of the reason. People have died, and will continue to die, from coal power. Entire species, great numbers of species, are expected to go extinct in the next few decades due to climate change.

Environmental groups make their biggest contributions when they find ways to get us to examine our individual behavior, when they find ways to communicate the science. Pretty much everyone I’ve sent to the IPCC Summaries for Policymakers tells me these are too difficult to understand, and so simpler explanations are helpful. But environmental groups are part of the problem when they oppose the conclusions of the people who have studied the issues. They oppose nuclear power without explanations (nuclear waste is not an explanation), and reinforce the do-nothing attitude of Americans.

If we are to limit atmospheric carbon to 400 ppm (pdf), as is recommended by the International Climate Change Taskforce, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 70%, to the amount the oceans absorb, over a period of 20 years or so (if we start today). In the US, the reduction needs to be 90% or even more, over the next 20 years, as population and per capita consumption increase.

Focusing on nuclear power distracts us from the work we need to do.

Biofuels in Brazil

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

The two topics that I am currently trying to learn more about are biofuels – using crops or other plant matter for fuel – and water. Meanwhile, I ran across an article in the Christian Science Monitor: flex cars are now the most popular new car there.

Computers in flexible fuel cars adjust to whatever the fuel mixture is, from all gasoline to all ethanol. These are the pertinent figures for Brazilians:

Ethanol engines use 25 percent more ethanol per mile than gasoline. But ethanol (the alcohol produced by fermenting sugar) usually sells at somewhere between a third to half of the price of gas.

If you have something to say about biofuels, water, or other environmental topics, let me know.

Science sources

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Comments that go beyond praise and nays
Pat suggests Science News articles as both short and readable.

Both Science (US) and Nature (Britain) have less difficult articles at the front, from news to explanations in English of one or more technical articles in the research section. They also cover other topics of interest, eg, science in Iran.

Anonymous points out that especially re pharmaceuticals, there is a strong bias to publish results that show something, vs nothing. This is true in all fields, though “nothing” can often be “something” — this drug appears to have no effect on the course of the disease. (Fortunately, new journal guidelines require studies to pre-register if they hope to be published, a first step in learning how many studies fail to show positive results.)

One of the difficulties in sorting out information on pharmaceuticals is that rarely do researchers check and re-check published results. There is little incentive to show that drug A doesn’t do as reported. This is part of why in medical articles are not as well trusted.

In all fields, there is a bias for experiments that show results. Once published, and if the point is important enough to confirm, failures now become an important part of the conversation. Other results are needed to confirm findings, add complexities to findings, refute findings. Sometimes when new and surprising predictions are made, I hold the idea as a possibility while waiting for the second study.

Rebekah says look past what appears in magazines to university research, but where is university research published? Science and Nature are two general science magazines, read mostly by people in science or very interested in science. Then there are magazines that specialize.

I will write a couple people asking who funded their research before and after a particular article.

A very important, not-to-be-missed, point is this: scientists read Science and Nature and specialized journals to find out what people in and out of their field are doing. The people with knowledge and experience and healthy skepticism trust what they read in these sources, with some of the caveats mentioned. In part, this is because if errors are discovered, a notification is published; cases of fraud are reported extensively; failures to confirm published results are reported extensively. This varies some by field: medical and publich health publications, for example, are not held in the same esteem as publications of American Physical Society. The National Academies and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are examples of groups created to reliably sort through the science, report what is known and how well it is understood and what needs to be done next.

Few environmental groups are careful to ruthlessly weed out errors and notify readers of fraud. Yet our path ahead is made easier if we attend to both the larger vision of where we are going, and the rocks in the path that might trip us up.

Check out the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the British Royal Society, and other national academies.

Really, whom can you trust?

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

A discussion with a F/friend about whom can you trust revealed the very different prejudices we bring into discussions.

She said, “Follow the money.” Her sense of scientist is an industry scientist reporting what industry wants to hear. And it is true that an unfortunate number of scientists, particularly in medicine and public health, cannot be considered unbiased. Additionally, there are industry funded “think tanks”, aka propaganda machines, that produce treatises based less on research and thought and more on publicizing an propaganda. While people in the coal and oil industry are supplying interesting ideas to the discussion of carbon capture and sequestration, there is relatively little interest in the scientific community for their industry-financed ideas on whether climate change is occurring and whether it will be good or bad for us.

What does the phrase ‘scientific community’ mean?

One person I asked said that it is anyone who is sort of scientifically trained (it can be on the job) who does research in science. In his field, biotech, many of the early people were hired without science degrees of any sort, but some science knowledge and an ability to learn. Back when I was an electronics engineer, there were people like me who did the grunt design or other work, and others who seemed more tied into the theoretical discussions in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

To others, it is the collection of people trained in science who contribute peer-reviewed research. Some of these people work in industry, but a check through one issue of Science magazine produced a list of people from universities, national labs, and other research institutes, and no one from industry.

What is the scientific community? To me and to many others, it is the set of people and ideas involved in this peer-review process. While much science is done in industry, it tends to be more science applications than producing models that can be tested.

Who pays whom and does it matter?

It is popular to point out that scientists are often government-funded, and it is certainly true that most university and national lab research is funded by the government, state or national. It does not necessarily follow that the information that people in government ever become aware of is information that pleases the people who signed the legislation. I have seen relatively little legislator interest in climate change, for example, comparable to the interest of government-funded scientists.

Is pay the only important factor? Ignacio Chapela of UC, Berkeley produced a paper for Nature magazine “documenting” the spread of transgenes (genes introduced from another species). Nature apologized for printing the article which contained numerous errors, the only one of which I understood was that the same technology showing spread of transgenes to Mexican corn also produced the same result in 40-year old seeds. I have become frustrated with the technical arguments opposing transgenic crops in part because so many of the reports in scientific journals turned out to be wrong later (and of course, a substantial number of the reports in the mainstream and other media never made it through peer-review).

There are other ideologues. When errors were found in the evidence John Christy and others had relied on to argue against some climate change conclusions, specifically that the atmosphere was not warming along with the Earth’s surface, their conclusions did not change substantially.

Many people tell me that they trust environmentalists who are dedicated to the public good. Yet there are others who are dedicated to the public good, such as holocaust deniers. I need more information to know whether I can trust a group. And there is a money trail in environmentalism. The contributions do not come fast and furious from people pleased to see their prejudices exposed and their eyes opened. Contributions to environmental groups often determine the focus of such groups. Why the focus on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and ignoring fleet mileage averages for vehicles? ANWR is in more danger from oil which is burned than from oil drilling (though I have never seen any analysis that indicates that drilling there makes sense). Yet ANWR protests are major fundraising opportunities for environmental groups. At the legislative discussions, the oil companies went to the CAFE standards discussions, and the environmental groups went to the ANWR drilling discussions.

Focusing on how someone else is polluting the world, through the use of nuclear power and transgenic (genetically modified) crops are also means of raising funds for environmental groups, and are often their weakest work.

My own rule is to trust more information that comes through some peer-review process. If National Academy of Sciences makes a mistake, there is a loud outcry from scientists, and articles in Science and other journals. When a member of the public or an environmental group makes a mistake, it’s business as usual.

That said, most people tell me that the science information they get from scientists, such as the summaries for policy makers that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produces, are too hard to understand.

What to do? Ideas and comments?

Comments that go beyond praise and nays Kathryn comments on an earlier post on Good and Evil with a very different take on environmental discussions. She “metaphorically somaticizes the living Earth and Cosmos”, receiving and interpreting information in a different manner than I do. We all contribute to the general understanding, we all learn and hear in different manners, and I appreciate her comments.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a draft summary for policy makers on one of the technologies expected to help us meet the need to reduce carbon emissions 70% worldwide, more than 90% per person in the US, even while population and per capita energy consumption increases. (This reduces carbon emissions to the amount the oceans can absorb; more reductions are needed to protect the oceans.) This reduction is needed no matter the final level of atmospheric carbon, 400 parts per million volume (ppmv), as International Climate Change Taskforce proposes for the initial limit, or double pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.

One (metric) tonne is 1.1 American tons. Units can be tonne CO2 or tonne C. CO2 has 44/12 as much mass as the carbon alone.

From the report:

1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) is a process consisting of separation of CO2 from industrial and energy-related sources, transport to a storage location, and long-term isolation from the atmosphere. This report considers CCS as an option in the portfolio of mitigation actions for stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

2. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) indicates that no single technology option will provide all of the emission reductions needed to achieve stabilization, but a portfolio of mitigation measures will be needed.

3. Capture of CO2 can be applied to large point sources. The CO2 would then be compressed and transported for storage in geological formations, in the ocean, in mineral carbonates, or for use in industrial processes.

[Currently, large point sources account for 13,500 million tonnes (metric tons) of carbon dioxide/year, 3,700 million tonnes of carbon. Major industries are electric power, cement, oil and gas, iron and steel, petrochemical, and bioethanol and bioenergy – energy from plant matter.]

4. The net reduction of emissions to the atmosphere through CCS depends on the fraction of CO2 captured, the increased CO2 production resulting from loss in overall efficiency of power plants or industrial processes due to the additional energy required for capture, transport and storage, any leakage from transport, and the fraction of CO2 retained in storage over the long term.

A power plant equipped with a CCS system (with access to geological or ocean storage) would need roughly 10 – 40% more energy than a plant of equivalent output without CCS, most of it for capture and compression-CCS systems with storage as mineral carbonates, would need 60 – 180% more energy than a plant of equivalent output without CCS.

What is the current status of CCS technology?

5. There are different types of CO2 capture systems: post-combustion, pre-combustion and oxyfuel combustion. The concentration of CO2 in the gas stream, the pressure of the gas stream and the fuel type (solid or gas) are important factors in selecting the capture system.

6. Pipelines are preferred for transporting large amounts of CO2 for distances up to around 1,000 km. For amounts smaller than a few million tonnes of CO2 per year, or larger distances overseas, use of ships, where applicable, could be economically more attractive.

7. Storage of CO2 in deep, onshore or offshore, geological formations uses many of the same technologies that have been developed by the oil and gas industry and has been proven to be economically feasible under specific conditions for oil and gas fields and saline formations, but not yet for storage in unminable coal beds.

8. Ocean storage potentially could be done in two ways: by injecting and dissolving CO2 into the water column (typically below 1,000 meters) via a fixed pipeline or a moving ship, or by depositing it via a fixed pipeline or an offshore platform on the sea floor at depths below 3,000 m, where CO2 is denser than water and is expected to form a “lake” that would delay dissolution of CO2 into the surrounding environment. Ocean storage and its ecological impacts are still in the research phase.

10. Industrial uses of captured CO2 as gas or liquid, or as a feedstock in chemical processes that produce valuable carbon-containing products are possible, but are not expected to contribute to significant abatement of CO2 emissions.

What is the geographical relationship between the sources and storage opportunities for CO2?

12. Large point sources of CO2 are concentrated in proximity to major industrial and urban areas. Many such sources are within 300 km of areas that potentially hold formations suitable for geological storage. Preliminary research suggests that, globally, a small proportion of large point sources is close to potential ocean storage locations.

Scenario studies indicate that the number of large point sources is projected to increase in the future, and that, by 2050, given expected technical limitations, around 20 – 40% of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions could be technically suitable for capture, including 30 – 60% of electricity generation and 30 – 40% of industrial CO2 emissions.

13. CCS enables the control of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-based production of electricity or hydrogen, which in the longer term could reduce part of the dispersed CO2 emissions from transport and distributed energy supply systems.

Electricity could be used in vehicles, and hydrogen could be used in fuel cells, including in the transport sector. Gas and coal conversion with integrated CO2 separation (without storage) is currently the dominant option for production of hydrogen.

What are the costs for CCS and what is the technical and economic potential?

14. Application of CCS to electricity production, under 2002 conditions, is estimated to increase electricity generation costs by about 0.01 – 0.05 US dollars per kilowatt hour (US$/kWh), depending on the fuel, the specific technology, the location, and the national circumstances. Including the benefits of EOR [Enhanced Oil Recovery] would reduce additional electricity production costs due to CCS by around 0.01 to 0.02 US$/kWh (see (tables) for absolute electricity production costs and for costs in US$/tCO2 avoided). Increases in market prices of fuels used for power generation would generally tend to increase the cost of CCS. The quantitative impact of oil price on CCS is uncertain. However, revenue from EOR would generally be higher for higher oil prices. Whilst applying CCS to biomass-based power production at current small scale would add substantially to the electricity costs, co-firing of biomass in a larger coal-fired power plant with CCS would be more cost-effective.

Costs vary considerably in both absolute and relative terms from country to country. Since neither Natural Gas Combined Cycle, Pulverized Coal nor Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle systems have yet been built at a full scale with CCS, the costs of these systems cannot be stated with a high degree of confidence at this time. In the future, the costs of CCS could be reduced by research and technological development, and economies of scale.

15. Retrofitting existing plants with CO2 capture is expected to lead to higher costs and significantly reduced overall efficiencies than for newly built power plants with capture. The cost disadvantages of retrofitting may be reduced for some relatively new and highly efficient existing plants, or where a plant is substantially upgraded or rebuilt.

17. Energy and economic models indicate that the major CCS system’s contribution to climate change mitigation would come from deployment in the electricity sector. Most modelling as assessed in this report suggests that CCS systems begin to deploy at a significant level when CO2 prices begin to reach approximately 25 – 30 US$/tCO2. [$90 – 110 tonne C]

18. Available evidence suggests that worldwide, it is likely that there is a technical potential2 of at least about 2,000 GtCO2 (545 GtC) of storage capacity in geological formations.

There could be a much larger potential for geological storage in saline formations, but the upper limit estimates are uncertain due to lack of information and an agreed methodology. The capacity of oil and gas reservoirs is better known. Technical storage capacity in coal beds is much smaller and less well known

19. In most scenarios for stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations between 450 and 750 ppmv CO2 and in a least-cost portfolio of mitigation options, the economic potential of CCS would amount to 220 – 2,200 GtCO2 (60 – 600 GtC) cumulatively, which would mean that CCS contributes 15 to 55% to the cumulative mitigation effort worldwide until 2100, averaged over a range of baseline scenarios. It is likely that the technical potential for geological storage is sufficient to cover the high end of the economic potential range, but for specific regions, this may not be true.

20. In most scenario studies, the role of CCS in mitigation portfolios increases over the course of the century and including CCS in a mitigation portfolio is found to reduce the costs of stabilizing CO2 concentrations by 30% or more. [not compared to other alternatives, but compared to not using CCS and so needing to use other very costly technologies.]

23. Adding CO2 to the ocean or forming pools of liquid CO2 on the ocean floor at industrial scales will alter the local chemical environment. Experiments have shown that sustained high concentrations of CO2 would cause mortality of ocean organisms. CO2 effects on marine organisms will have ecosystem consequences.

The chronic effects of direct CO2 injection into the ocean on ecosystems over large ocean areas and long time scales have not yet been studied.

25. Observations from engineered and natural analogues as well as models suggest that the fraction retained in appropriately selected and managed geological reservoirs is very likely to exceed 99% over 100 years, and is likely to exceed 99% over 1,000 years.

26. Release of CO2 from ocean storage would be gradual over hundreds of years.

34. There are gaps in knowledge regarding some aspects of CCS. Increasing knowledge and experience would reduce uncertainties and thus facilitate decision-making regarding deployment of CCS for climate change mitigation.