Archive for September, 2010

US needs to pay more attention to adaptation to climate change

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

A report issued today from University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on the National Climate Adaptation Summit (in May) addresses the need for adaptation to climate change.

Even with mitigation efforts, climate change will continue to unfold for decades due to the long atmospheric lifetime of past greenhouse-gas emissions and the gradual release of excess heat that has built up in the oceans. Climate change adaptation is thus a necessity for our Nation and the world.

Their recommendations include

a limited number of pilot projects to experiment with different adaptation approaches and methods. Such pilot projects should be monitored and carefully evaluated to facilitate “learning by doing,” or adaptive adaptation.

and education to produce

climate-savvy leaders and workforce required for effective climate adaptation planning.

The Executive Summary

The National Climate Adaptation Summit was in response to a conversation the President’s Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, had with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Board members and took place in Washington, DC, on May 25-27, 2010. This event brought together more than 180 users and providers of climate adaptation information to examine the needs, knowledge, and roles required for effective adaptation to climate change. The goal of the Summit was to inform federal, state, regional, and local climate adaptation efforts, including the planning of the federal Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

There was a strong consensus among participants that wise adaptation measures can help minimize the negative impacts of a changing climate on our Nation’s communities, businesses, ecosystems, and citizens. Effective adaptation will require improved coordination within agencies and among agencies, states, regions and the private sector. It also calls for new methods of communication; sharing of best practices; budget increases in a few key areas; research to produce needed missing information; development of new partnerships; and ‘learning by doing’, or adaptive adaptation.

The Summit identified seven priorities for near-term action:

Developing an overarching national strategy to guide federal climate change adaptation programs. This strategy should establish agency roles, clear goals and metrics, and better mechanisms for coordinating federal and non-federal activities.

Improving coordination of federal plans and programs. Strong management from the executive branch is needed to break down barriers, integrate planning, move funding into the highest priority areas, and maintain priorities across the multitude of involved agencies.

Creating a federal climate information portal. This would provide single-point access to data from all relevant federal agencies and programs and would evolve over time into a more “national” portal with information about relevant non-federal efforts.

Creating a clearinghouse of best practices and toolkits for adaptation. Such an effort could assist regions and sectors with similar adaptation challenges in learning from each other and explore the intersection of adaptation and mitigation.

Including support for assessment in USGCRP agency budgets. This would enable the regular national-scale assessments of climate change impacts that are required by law.

Increasing funding for research on vulnerability and impacts, including economic analyses, and pilot projects that join local, state, and regional governments and academic institutions to develop and test adaptation measures and tools.

Initiating a regional series of ongoing climate adaptation forums. The goal would be to integrate planning, communication, and coordination of activities across various agencies and U.S. regions.

The event was also webcast.

What People are Saying—Choosing technologies/ changing behavior

Monday, September 27th, 2010

This is part 3 of the What People are Saying portion of the series on the culture wars, which began with Climate change is a concern: yes or no?

—Choosing technologies/changing behavior
Overheard in public discussions:

• Expanding nuclear power is best—it can supply most of our electricity and transportation (electric cars and trains).

• Nuclear power is bad. Opponents have a variety of reasons, but most seem to center on the dangers Big Business exposes us to, combined with insufficient government regulation.

• Carbon capture and storage is rarely mentioned.

• Solutions are best when they are small-scale, distributed, and part of building democracy. For example, Harvey Wasserman said:

At its core, the nuclear issue is a confrontation between corporate, technocratic domination and decentralized, community independence. The choice is closely linked to a broad spectrum of issues—to unemployment and high electric rates, to exploitation of Third World people and resources, to the plagues of nuclear armaments, environmental chaos, and our soaring cancer rates.

(“The Clamshell Alliance: Getting it Together,” Progressive, 41, 9 (September 1977), 18)

• The most important solutions involve food. We are advised to avoid meat (many advocates originally did not eat meat for other reasons) or/and eat organic or/and eat locavore.

• Solutions are best when they are natural. Probing further, it appears that sunlight is natural, but that rocks are not. Transgenic (genetically modified) crops are definitely not natural, while whatever food existed when I began paying attention is.

• Solutions are best when they are renewable. Many feel that we should eschew a technology available for centuries more (nuclear power) because we need to change some time and so might as well do it today. Many adherents of all-renewables appear to envision solar and wind, and dislike/ignore the relative importance biomass must place in an all-renewables world.

• The best solution is for all individuals to reduce emissions through behavior change. This will solve a number of other problems such as unsustainable rates of resource use. Some advocates for living-with-less solutions oppose technology solutions because people will ignore living-with-less if they perceive other options. Advocates rarely, if ever, address the difficulty of the goal: in 2050, 9 billion people with per capita GHG emissions under 10% of current US emission.

• Conservation makes us feel good but doesn’t do much (Cheney said something different: “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”)

• The best solution is to strengthen community, eg, through transition towns.

Read in IPCC and other major reports from peer-reviewed community:
Policymakers welcome all solutions large or small, but what is the relative importance of the solutions?

The need for both nuclear and renewables was addressed in Cap and trade for greenhouse gas: yes or no? Efficiency solutions comprise the largest technological response, but we will still need electricity. Policymakers would like to see electricity decarbonized by 2030, and carbon capture and storage is perhaps the largest short-term solution for decarbonizing energy, including both electricity and industrial uses (eg, steel manufacturing). (See International Energy Agency Energy Technology Perspectives 2010, key graphs). One advantage of carbon capture and storage is that it can be built quickly: pipes can be attached to existing fossil fuel power plants relatively rapidly without the need for detailed oversight as would be true for nuclear power. See this EU analysis of carbon capture and storage (pdf) or the US Department of Energy carbon sequestration site.

Behavior change is necessary, if for no other reason than people generally do not rationally choose more efficient bulbs, cars and appliances except as part of behavior change (Leaping the Energy Gap, Science August 14, 2009 (subscription required). While policy experts do not oppose voluntary behavior change, they see no indication it can be depended on. Eating low meat diets does help, but so does reducing GHG from transportation. According to IPCC Working Group III,

Agriculture accounted for an estimated emission of 5.1 to 6.1 GtCO2-eq/yr in 2005 (10-12% of total global anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases

Elsewhere, WG3 says,

In 2004, the transport sector produced 6.3 GtCO2 emissions … and its growth rate is highest among the end-user sectors.

Some of this includes freight, but this does not include the greater effect that flying may have, dropping water vapor, etc high in the atmosphere. Today, GHG emissions from all agriculture for 7 billion people are about the same as from transportation used by a much smaller number.

The legal definition of organic food is not mentioned in IPCC, rather, specific necessary technologies (eg, transgenic crops and low-tillage farming) are discussed. The legal definition of organic precludes transgenic crops. Locavore makes some sense, but can be a challenge to apply. Farmers’ markets, for example, can have greater associated emissions than the local grocery chain, due to higher waste and fuel use. Idaho potatoes traveling by train to the Northeast may have a lower GHG cost than Maine potatoes traveling by truck.

One of the challenges around behavior change, including choosing better technology, is public confusion, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report, Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings (pdf).

Policy experts rarely if ever address utility takeover by small public groups, but larger utilities benefit from greater expertise. Policy experts rarely address co-benefits such as mentioned by Wasserman, although co-benefits are frequently mentioned, such as reducing yearly deaths from direct pollution from fossil fuels, now in the hundreds of thousands (note: decentralized energy is almost fossil fuel, so Wasserman and policy experts disagree on their benefits). One challenge for members of the public promoting co-benefits is to establish whether the co-benefit is real (eg, many were surprised when a legal definition on organic foods led to agribusiness-produced organic food), whether the co-benefit will survive climate change (eg, building strong communities), and whether the co-benefit is an add-on or the main point (for some vegetarians, climate change is the add-on).

What People are Saying
part 1—Climate change is a concern: yes or no?
part 2—Cap and trade for greenhouse gas: yes or no?
part 4—Population reduction has to happen first
second part—What People are Saying—Population reduction has to happen first, part 2

Innovators Under 35—David Kobia for Ushahidi

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

MIT’s Technology Review gives an annual prize to 35 Innovators Under 35. The first listed is David Kobia, Humanitarian of the Year.

David Kobia
David Kobia

From the article:

The Ushahidi project brings crowd­sourcing to bear on some of the most desperate situations people face around the world. Its downloadable software allows users to submit eyewitness reports during a conflict or disaster; the collected reports are displayed on a map. At times when ordinary sources of news and public information are unavailable, Ushahidi gives users a way to share information and shape political opinion, guide rescuers, or pool resources. Ushahidi has been used to monitor elections in Sudan, document violence in Gaza, track the BP oil slick, and assist earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti.

Ushahidi was born during the riots that followed Kenya’s 2007 presidential election….That initial version was simple: just a map and a form that let users describe an incident, select the nearest town, and note the location, date, and time…..

It has been used in more than 30 countries, mostly by grassroots relief and watchdog organizations, to direct aid workers to specific locations, document corruption, and track complex events in space and time.


What People are Saying—Cap and trade for greenhouse gas: yes or no?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The What People are Saying portion of the series on the culture wars began with Climate change is a concern: yes or no? Now for part 2:

—Cap and trade for greenhouse gas (GHG): yes or no?
Overheard in public discussions:

• Cap and trade, a policy that limits total GHG emissions increasingly over time, but allows the trading of permits to pollute, is necessary because without an increase in price, individuals and companies will not make decisions that reflect the cost.

• Utilities and other businesses would benefit most from adding a cost to GHG today because such a cost is A) inevitable, sooner rather than later; and B) getting the rules and costs nailed down soon will facilitate long-range planning. (A number of utilities have been expressing frustration for a decade because they don’t know the rules, yet must make $2 trillion in investments.)

• Governments have proved reluctant to implement policy that results in a serious cost for GHG. Of the nations that signed Kyoto, almost none placed any cost on GHG, and for the few that did, the cost was low. So forget cap and trade, an expensive way to regulate pollution without coming up with new solutions. Instead, governments could finance technological breakthroughs through public investment.*

• Current technology is sufficient and sufficiently cheap. This argument comes from two different groups. Some nuclear energy advocates say, use nuclear for power, heating and electric transportation; it will take care of most of the problem. The second group appears to believe that Big Business and the Government are hiding that we already have enough renewable technology to avert the crisis, and could become 100% renewable within a decade or two.** Both groups believe we could be fossil-free soon.

• A greenhouse gas tax is better than cap and trade, because Big Business will benefit too much from the structure created to implement the cap and trade policy. And we should return a percentage of the tax to the lower and middle classes. On the other hand, if cap and trade is used, we should auction 100% of the permits, so that business does not benefit from “windfall profits” (eg, Friends Committee on National Legislation Six Keys to a Successful Cap and Trade Program).

• Cap and trade is likely to kill the economy.

• Others see any cost as OK, no matter how high, “if we are fighting climate change, we need to do all we can”, they say in response to questions about particular policies.

Read in IPCC and other major reports from peer-reviewed community:
A cost on greenhouse gas is critical, through cap and trade and/or a tax. Some analysis suggests whatever the attraction of tax (costs known, reduction uncertain), that cap and trade (reduction known, cost uncertain) is a better policy when large, rapid reductions are needed. (See Pew Center’s US Climate Action Proposal for a simplified explanation, or the more-detailed IPCC Working Group 3.) Severin Borenstein, director of University of California Energy Institute, believes the question unimportant, and that either must be tweaked to get us where we want to be (his talk). Giving away permits cannot be simplified as a benefit for big business, eg see Robert Stavins.

Most important: get a cost, get it now, and make sure that it becomes appreciable soon. While many kinds of solutions are necessary (including technological innovations, behavioral changes, and efficiency mandates), adding a steep cost to GHG is perhaps the most necessary of all. Borenstein believes we won’t really tackle climate change until the price of greenhouse gases reaches $60-80/ton and possibly $100/ton (5 cent/kWh, 90 cent/gallon gasoline). Go to Borenstein’s talk, around 51 minutes—or catch the whole talk for a good introduction to energy issues.

Experts also say that while the costs are high, they aren’t as high as ignoring climate change and biodiversity loss. See for example, The Stern Review (the report is several years old, news from the climate change community is scarier, and politicians have done little, so costs could be larger today). The costs for addressing climate change will be high, but some subsidies are excessive, eg, solar (>41 pence/kWh, >66c in the UK)—choices must be made.

Increasing funding for research, development, and deployment is critical (see for example Belfer Center’s analysis, DOE FY 2011 Budget Request for Energy Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment: Analysis and Recommendations), but new technology alone is not the solution. Also see IPCC Working Group 3.

Note: increased R&D is cheaper than adding a cost to GHG emissions. The current Department of Energy R&D budget is more than $10 billion, so major increases would be on the order of $10 – 30 billion. A GHG cost of $100/ton adds 90 cent/gallon to the price of gasoline, or $120 billion/year on sales of 138 billion gallons gasoline (US, 2009). Adding a 10 cent/kWh cost to coal electricity, 5 cent for natural gas, assuming no change in production or use, would impose a cost of $20 billion (US, 4 trillion kWh in 2008). Since there would be a shift towards greater efficiency and reduced driving of cars, and a shift away from coal and natural gas, costs would be much lower. A concrete plan implemented over time provides needed information for choosing among cars and power plant sources. Increased R&D is also important, but it will not substitute for a GHG cap and trade policy, or tax. Note: economists often suggest using some of the money raised to substitute for other taxes, and some to be returned to consumers as a general benefit to help compensate for higher energy costs.

Neither nuclear nor renewables is expected to supply 100% of 2050 electricity under the most optimistic scenario, nor are nuclear and renewables together expected to supply all of 2050 electricity.

*See, for example: Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger:

[T]he debate between carbon tax and cap-and-trade proponents is a false one. The problem is that no government in the world so far has been willing to establish and sustain a high price on carbon, whether through taxes or caps. This is due to at least four substantial and interlinked issues: the political power of incumbent energy interests, low consumer tolerance for high energy prices, the economic impacts that substantially raising energy prices will have on key energy-intensive sectors of the economy, and — most importantly — the substantial price gap that continues to exist between fossil fuels and clean-energy alternatives….For this reason, we argue that environmentalists must shift from looking to high carbon prices to drive private sector energy innovation to using low carbon prices to fund public sector research, development, and deployment of clean energy technologies.

**See, for example, Amory Lovins, who claims renewables are already cheaper than all alternatives.

Innovation solves the climate problem, not at a cost but at a profit. I think that already is happening. I was just looking at the numbers for the U.S., and it turns out we have existing technology that can displace our coal-fired electricity more than 22 times over—cheaper than buying a new coal plant, and you can displace all of it with some room to spare cheaper than running an old coal plant. So if you look at the astonishing developments in the market, I think you will see some validation of that. Two-thirds of the world’s new electricity is now from micro power—that is, cogeneration plus renewables, minus big hydro. So all of the central plants—coal, nuclear, gas—have been pushed into minority market share because they cost too much and have too much of a natural risk.

Lovins appears to be saying both that new technology is needed and current technology is more than sufficient. I failed to substantiate his claims about 2/3 of the world’s new electricity.

What People are Saying
part 1—Climate change is a concern: yes or no?
part 3—Choosing technologies/changing behavior
part 4—Population reduction has to happen first
second part—What People are Saying—Population reduction has to happen first, part 2

Is Voluntary Behavior Change Important?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I have changed my behavior in response to climate change because it feels right. On the average, the changes have been positive in my life, with the occasional challenge, but owning a car and flying had their own larger challenges. I have never seen behavior change as something to be done in lieu of working for major changes in policy.

I’m going to list a few pros and cons to behavior change. I look forward to your comments. Note: the focus is on climate change. That climate change may encourage us to make changes that benefit us is important, but to be discussed elsewhere. My question is whether a focus on individual behavior change by some helps with, or interferes with, finding solutions to climate change.

• Scientists aren’t going to be able to detect living with less among all the other behavior changes. So why work so hard?
• There are too many advantages to me to keep my behavior the same—I can stay connected to family and friends, my life is more flexible, I know more about and better appreciate our world from seeing more of it, and I have more opportunity to contribute on other issues.
• To a large degree, most living-with-less activities people focus on don’t address climate change (a SF Bay Area study found farmers markets have higher associated greenhouse gas emissions than does Safeway).
• People pay a small amount of money to groups that offset their behavior and then feel OK, and so engage in even more of that behavior. For some, at least, GHG emissions go up because there is “something we can do” and so we no longer need to worry.
• Studies show that people who perform a minor act, like buying something green, act less generously in their next behavior. We all know people like this: driving to the store to buy organic food in recyclable plastic means I’ve done my good deed for the day. Read about one such study in the NY Times, When Green Consumers Decide I’ve Done Enough, and about “single-action bias” on page 2.
• Per the “single-action bias”, people who work on changing their behavior (or helping others change theirs) do not work on policy. Severin Borenstein says in this talk that voluntary behavior change is fine, he does it, but we don’t address air pollution by asking people to do voluntary smog checks.

• Some people sort through their response to climate change by examining their own behavior.
• Part of the solutions, beyond adding a cost to GHG and technology change, will include limiting behavior, eg, through congestion charges for driving in crowded downtown, such as is done in London. This will be easier if a critical mass of the public already buys into alternatives to driving everywhere. Note: the hefty congestion charges are accompanied by an increase in bus service.
• We are not addressing climate change in part because we have so many fears about what this requires of us. Addressing our fears allows frees us to address climate change.

Voluntary behavior change gets us to this faster or slower?
Voluntary behavior change gets us to this faster or slower? picture credit

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the above arguments? What additional arguments exist?

Is nuclear power necessary? Is it sufficient?

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

I normally argue the importance of nuclear power, but recently I have run into a number of people asserting that nuclear power is sufficient. Of course, the question is sufficient for what.

My assumption is that scientific consensus is correct, and that the goal of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions of >50% worldwide by 2050 (and perhaps >80%), >90% per capita in the US, may still not be enough. Note, since we are really dealing with cumulative emissions, and we are dawdling about getting started, the goal could require even steeper cuts.

I stopped using the concept of the Socolow-Pacala wedge some years ago when I read once too often that we need only 7 – 8 wedges. A wedge is a large solution, able to reduce GHG emissions by 25 gigatonnes.

Socolow Wedge

I responded with How Many Wedges Do We Need? and calculated 18. In the September 10 Science, Farewell to Fossil Fuels? (subscription required), the estimate is now 25.

So we need enormous rapid reductions in GHG emissions. One argument I’ve seen recently is that those who say that we can do with efficiency in lieu of nuclear power are wrong, so we don’t need increased efficiency. Conservation includes both behavior change, and increased efficiency—better bulbs, better cars, better refrigerators. According to the major reports from the peer review community (uber reports), all means together of achieving greater efficiency comprise the single largest solution to climate change. An example is given below in the Fetter article. Conservation will also occur with behavior change, encouraged by policies such as the London congestion charge. Scientists are less optimistic about the potential for voluntary behavior change.

Is nuclear power necessary?

Every uber report says yes, eg, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III and Sustainable Energy Future: The Essential Role of Nuclear Energy (pdf), signed by 10 directors of the national labs including now Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:

We believe that nuclear energy must play a significant role in our nation’s — and the world’s — electricity portfolio for the next 100+ years.

The arguments I read against the need for nuclear power come from outside the peer review community.

Those who argue that nuclear power is sufficient (with or without improved efficiency) say there is enough uranium and thorium, not to mention methods of using old nuclear fuel, and nuclear power can supply 100% of the world’s electricity for a long time. In Generating the Option of a Two-Stage Nuclear Renaissance (subscription required), part of the Scaling Up Alternative Energy discussion in the August 13 Science, the authors estimate nuclear could be an important source of electricity for >1000 years.) However, there is a difference between statements like “there is enough wind blowing over the Earth” and “100% wind will be feasible soon”. Besides public prejudice, and in some places laws prohibiting new nuclear plants “until the waste problem is solved”, there are other obstacles to nuclear power. Many of those obstacles may disappear, and perhaps all electricity on planet Earth 2100 will be nuclear, but no major analysis gets us there by 2050. These obstacles include how slowly we will add nuclear power if we do it with care (build the plants safely, make sure countries have the infrastructure needed to for meeting international standards of operation). There is presently a mismatch between nuclear plant size and the needs of some utilities: for many smaller utilities it makes more sense to build smaller plants. Nuclear power may work better in some of the developing world if the proliferation-resistant plant can be delivered, operate for years without refueling, and then be carried away—one of the possible Generation IV (Gen IV) designs. This and other smaller plants designs will appear over the coming years, and their success may make nuclear power more attractive. (Read more about the generations of nuclear power.)

Then there is the challenge presented by governments. In France and Hong Kong, the government makes a decision. In the US, good decisions depend on good laws. A number of utilities began campaigning almost a decade ago to get good climate change legislation: with $2 trillion in decisions pending, and an inevitable GHG cost, they wanted to know the rules. The US Congress and President have not made adding a cost for GHG a priority, though the (current) President and many legislators support it. So some US utilities are building natural gas, and others are building nuclear (eg, TVA has recently completed, and begun, nuclear plants and plans to decrease coal and increase nuclear) using a set of rules almost everyone knows will change.

Watts Bar 2
Construction continuing at Watts Bar 2

and a gen III+ in Georgia
generations described
generations described

How fast can we add nuclear power?

International Atomic Energy Agency keeps track of plant construction and decommissioning and provides estimates for future construction. In Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period Up to 2050: 2010 Edition (pdf), a range of estimates are provided. Their high estimates are not the highest that are technically feasible, nor their lowest as low as could occur. Additionally, the estimates evolve, so this year’s estimates are larger than those from a decade ago. IAEA says that 14% of 2009 world electricity, 5.5% of 2009 energy, came from nuclear. By 2030, the percentage of nuclear electricity will have increased to somewhere between 8.5 and 10.4%. By 2050, nuclear will supply between 5 and 11.9% of world electricity. In North America, as much as 40% of 2050 electricity could be nuclear; in west Europe, as much as 50%.

The highest estimates I’ve seen from a peer-review publication was in Science in 2000, A Nuclear Solution to Climate Change? (subscription required), co-authored by Steve Fetter, now Assistant Director in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The authors estimate that if energy efficiency is improved rapidly, so that per capita energy use increases only 50% between 1997 and 2050, and population increases by 50%, nuclear could supply only 1/3 of 2050 energy, but over half of 2050 electricity.

According to the uber reports, it is unlikely at best that the world will achieve France’s 76% nuclear by 2050. There is no clear plan for reducing transportation GHG emissions to near 0—maybe electric cars powered by nuclear will be the future, but that isn’t clear today.

In conclusion

Nuclear power is one of the larger solutions. It is needed. Depending on the relative economics of different sources of electricity in 2030, the reliability of suppliers, whether the promise of Gen IV was met, and how other problems turn out (eg, the possibility that wind will cause climate change), the choices for 2050 will include more or less nuclear, more or less renewables, more or less carbon capture and storage for fossil fuels. All uber reports assume that all these methods are needed, and together they may not be sufficient.

An Enemy of the People
Ibsen’s Dr. Stockmann is An Enemy of the People who innocently believed that the people of the spa town would welcome his warning about the spa, and fix the problem.

What People are Saying— Climate change is a concern: yes or no?

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

For some time I have been wrestling with the culture wars. I hear a Tower of Babel mentality run rampant over attempts to address climate change. Many arguments seem legitimate to me, because they are based in established sources I trust. Others seem to come out of nowhere and I wonder if we are speaking different languages. These are the arguments I am learning to understand as being part of the culture wars—they can be essentially unintelligible to those who don’t share our cultural assumptions.

I’ve posted already on Cultural Theory of Risk and will say more about it later. Now though, I am simply posting the kinds of arguments I have heard on climate change, and invite you to share the arguments you hear. I’d like your evaluation of these argument—where do they come from? Facts? Trustworthy sources? Cultural Assumptions?

If the latter, stay tuned for which cultural attitudes or groups are most likely to make the arguments you hear below. Meantime, how often have you heard these? (You haven’t heard this argument so it isn’t being made? Consider the most seen movie of all time, Jesus (pdf), seen by 1.5 billion people. Lots happens that isn’t covered in the newspapers.)

— Climate change is a concern: yes or no?
Overheard in public discussions:

• We are in danger of dying out as a species, if we are not totally greenhouse gas free within the next ten years.

• Climate change is serious, and we’ll begin to see evidence of that in the next 20-150 years. Our children or their children will suffer from the effects.

• Climate change isn’t actually happening, or if it is, it can’t be anthropogenic, and either way, the dangers are grossly exaggerated, if they even exist.

• The United Nations is not an organization I would trust to tell me anything true, including scientific findings (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] was created by the UN and World Meteorological Organization).

• “[G]lobal-warming theories give the government more control of the economy”. (Ed Crane, Cato Institute’s founder)

• Climate change is just one way that we are hastening Armageddon; our actions make God’s punishment more certain and swifter.

• Armageddon, in the form of climate change or anything else, does not arise from man’s actions, but from God’s own purposes.

• Genesis 9:13-15: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth…and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. Therefore, no matter what we do, God won’t allow it to destroy the earth.

Read in IPCC and other major reports from peer-reviewed community:
Climate change has been a major concern for some time, with overwhelming evidence of its effects including human deaths (World Health Organization estimates 150,000 dead from climate change in 2000, and presumably more today), as well as dramatic changes in precipitation and heat waves, with serious impacts and local extinctions for a number of species. Human beings are expected to be strongly affected in terms of health, comfort, life-expectancy, and violent conflict over resources, but the species is not expected to die out. (See IPCC) At the same time, scientists emphasize it is important to not overstate the case: our species is not likely to die out (however, many or most of us will be pretty unhappy). While it would be better for us to stop emitting greenhouse gases last week, solutions a decade from now are important, not all solutions need to be in place by 2011.

OK, what have you been hearing, and is it rational discussion, or the culture wars?

What people are saying
Part 2—Cap and trade for greenhouse gas: yes or no?
Part 3—Choosing technologies/changing behavior
Part 4—Population reduction has to happen first
second part—What People are Saying—Population reduction has to happen first, part 2

Wind turbines could cause temperatures to rise and fall

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

After I wrote my first paper on energy issues in 1997, a man from Scotland wrote saying that I might be too enthusiastic about wind. My attempt is to make what I say reflect the best understandings of the science and policy communities, but it is true that I was enthusiastic about wind. Over the years, some concerns have emerged, and I have put my enthusiasm on hold to see how analysis goes.

David Keith first raised the concern about climate change caused by wind power some years ago, but made no prediction about the direction that change might be, for good or ill. See Keith’s short overview on Wind Power and Climate Change, or download the longer National Academy of Science study. Now there is a more recent analysis: MIT analysis suggests wind turbines could cause temperatures to rise and fall:

In a paper published online Feb. 22 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, [Chen] Wang [of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences] and [Ron] Prinn ]TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science] suggest that using wind turbines to meet 10 percent of global energy demand in 2100 could cause temperatures to rise by one degree Celsius in the regions on land where the wind farms are installed, including a smaller increase in areas beyond those regions. Their analysis indicates the opposite result for wind turbines installed in water: a drop in temperatures by one degree Celsius over those regions.

Prinn cautioned against interpreting the study as an argument against wind power, urging that it be used to guide future research that explores the downsides of large-scale wind power before significant resources are invested to build vast wind farms. “We’re not pessimistic about wind,” he said. “We haven’t absolutely proven this effect, and we’d rather see that people do further research.”

warmer Earth?
warmer Earth? (pdf)

From Potential climatic impacts and reliability of very large-scale wind farms (pdf), The results do need to be checked, especially over the ocean:

Significant warming and cooling remote from the installations, and alterations of the global distributions of rainfall and clouds also occur.

Our ocean results indicating cooling over the installation regions and warming and cooling elsewhere are interesting, but suspect due to the unrealistic increases in surface drag needed to extract the target wind power.

10% of the world’s energy supply is a lot of energy, but the effects may not be so dire if wind is used less:

Installation of wind turbines over land areas that have alternative spatial extents, topographies and hydrological properties would produce different, but presumably still significant, climate effects. Due to the computed nonlinearity between the changes in surface roughness and the climate response, defining the optimal deployment of wind turbines is challenging. Climatic effects increase with power generated and decrease with conversion efficiency, putting aside the potential environmental effects for instance on birds and weather radar as well as on ambient noise levels. Also, for the widely spaced wind turbines simulated in our runs, the environmental effects appear small when they are generating less than 1 TW globally even with current technologies.

Note: at this point, if the problems from wind turn out to be of less importance, or of little importance at small to medium scales, wind with natural gas backup with carbon capture and storage will be an important part of the energy solution for 2030. I am still enthusiastic, I think.