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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Why we are Warming

Uploaded: Jun 23, 2019
We ended the last blog post with about half the Sun’s energy hitting the Earth. The question for this post is: what happens to it?


Outgoing energy from the Earth, adapted from NASA’s Energy Budget diagram

Not surprisingly, the Earth warms up and radiates heat and energy. But little of the Earth’s energy goes straight to outer space. Instead, it gets tangled up in the atmosphere. That is different from the Sun’s energy, all of which passes through except for the highest energy UV rays. (1) What is going on? Why does radiation from the Sun get through the atmosphere, while radiation from the Earth gets trapped? Since this is the basis for the greenhouse effect, it’s good to understand this.

The difference is that the Sun’s radiation is higher energy (aka shorter wavelength) than the Earth’s. Below is a picture of that. Wavelength is on the x-axis, and the amount of energy emitted is on the y-axis. The Sun emits shorter wavelengths than the Earth (farther to the left on the x-axis). That, in a nutshell, is why the atmosphere reacts so differently to it.


From a Columbia University course on climate

The atmosphere absorbs only the high-energy UVC and UVB rays from the Sun. The other solar radiation goes right through. In contrast, many molecules in the atmosphere interact with the lower-energy infrared radiation from Earth. These are called “greenhouse gas” molecules because they effectively trap the Earth’s heat, much like a greenhouse would do. Shown on the right below, they have some asymmetry or electric polarity that the radiation can interact with, causing the molecule to vibrate between two or more states.



Here is what that vibration can look like for carbon dioxide (top) and water (below).


Diagrams provided by Steven Walter here (2)

With most greenhouse gas molecules able to absorb several different infrared wavelengths, you get a pretty “opaque” atmosphere when it comes to Earth’s radiation -- little passes through. Only energy emitted in a small range of wavelengths, between about 8-12 micrometers, makes it through easily. That is called the “atmospheric window”, and it is the main way that heat from Earth bypasses our atmosphere.

In the diagram below, in the bottom rows, you can see which gases absorb at which wavelengths. Oxygen and ozone absorb the shortest, high-energy UV rays, while water vapor traps much of the lower energy radiation. Carbon dioxide is effective because it blocks where water vapor does not, and in particular at a wavelength that the Earth emits a lot of (around 15 micrometers). (3) The net impact of all of this is shown in the top row. The sun’s radiation, shown in red, largely comes through the atmosphere except for the higher wavelengths (on the left). But most of the Earth’s radiation is absorbed, with a small window around 10 micrometers.


From Wikimedia

With much of the Earth’s radiation, and some of the Sun’s, getting absorbed by the atmosphere, you may wonder where it ultimately goes…


Outgoing energy from the atmosphere, adapted from NASA’s Energy Budget diagram

Some of it escapes, but more of it goes back down to Earth, to be recycled yet again. This energy blanket has kept the Earth a stable, moderate temperature -- if there were no greenhouse effect, our average temperature would be about 0F instead of 60F. But in the last 100 years or so, and especially in the last 40, we have altered the atmosphere and our environment is warming.

You have seen three “Where does the energy go?” pictures in these two blog posts, one for the Sun, one for the Earth, and the last for the atmosphere:



They show energy moving between the three environments. When you put them all together, you get what is called the “Energy Budget” for our ecosystem. This helps assess whether our energy system is in a steady state.


From NASA

If you look at the numbers (4) in the energy budget diagram above, you see that the system is in near equilibrium. But the Earth is accumulating energy, shown as “net absorbed 0.6” in this diagram. We are not balancing our energy budget. The Earth is warming up as it seeks a new equilibrium temperature while greenhouse gas levels increase.


Source: http://berkeleyearth.org/2018-temperatures (5)

Well, that was a lot to digest. I hope it helps to make some of the science behind global warming and the greenhouse effect a little bit clearer, and show some of the ways things can get better or worse. We need to get our systems back into equilibrium so the Earth’s temperature can stabilize. Or better yet, flip the imbalance so the Earth will begin to cool off.

Current Climate Data (May 2019)

Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Notes and References

0. Thank you to Yoichi Shiga, a climate researcher at the Carnegie Institute for Science, for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this blog post.

1. See the third image in the previous blog post, which shows what happens to the Sun’s energy.

2. Steven Walter’s writeup offers a nice description of how greenhouse gases absorb energy.

3. You may wonder what makes methane and nitrous oxide such powerful greenhouse gases. In general it is because they absorb wavelengths emitted by Earth that aren’t otherwise well absorbed. And because they are still so rare, each new increment of gas makes a relatively big impact.

4. Refining these numbers is ongoing work, requiring more precise measurements of our atmosphere and ocean, among other things. The numbers in the diagram add up as follows. (a) The energy leaving outer space (from the sun) is 340.4 watts/meter^2. The energy going into outer space (from earth/clouds/atmosphere) is 339.8 = 77.0 + 22.9 + 239.9. The remaining 0.6 is being absorbed by Earth. (b) The energy leaving Earth (to the atmosphere and outer space) is 503 = 398.2 + 18.4 + 86.4. The energy coming into Earth (from the Sun and the atmosphere) is 503.6 = 163.3 + 340.3. The gap of 0.6 is what is causing temperatures on Earth to increase, until a new equilibrium is reached. (c) The energy leaving the atmosphere (to outer space and Earth) is 540.1 = 169.9 + 29.9 + 340.3. The energy coming into the atmosphere (from sun and Earth) is also 540.1 = 77.1 + 358.2 + 18.4 + 86.4. The atmosphere is in equilibrium.

5. If you remember from the first blog post, aerosols in the atmosphere (e.g., from pollution) can reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth. This is one of the reasons why global warming flattened between 1950 and 1980 or so. Even today, scientists say that heat in India (for example) would be much worse were it not for all the air pollution in that region.

6. A nice writeup from the University of Wisconsin puts much of this material (and more) in a broader context. There is a somewhat more technical overview of this topic in a writeup for a climate course at Columbia University.

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Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 23, 2019 at 11:07 am

awww, Sherry, now your're just baiting the Deniers!

;-)

Good read; in fact, I'll re-read later to better absorb some of the numbers.

re: getting back to equilibrium, or cooling further than before: get back to equilibrium, yes. Cooling more than before (besides being impractical, towards impossible) would have huge stakes in terms of the social upheaval we are seeing and will see in much worse ways (climate refugees, etc..)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Jun 23, 2019 at 2:22 pm

Agree with @tin foil hats. I've been rereading the last couple of posts so that I can discuss them without stumbling. Back to equilibrium seems like a reasonable goal, like the carbon tax proposal excluding agriculture. The exemption hurts, but politically it stands a chance of passing and that would be a start.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Brookings, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 23, 2019 at 5:01 pm

When the deniers post about Newsweek covers from 50 years ago, ask them what peer-reviewed study they were referring to......


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 23, 2019 at 8:49 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hi all. Thanks for the comments. I hope this blog and the last were not too complicated... Just to be clear on one point, we are moving *forward* to a new equilibrium, which will be at a higher temperature because of the added insulation. We will keep moving forward to higher and higher temperatures as long as we keep adding insulation (unless something else changes, like we block the sun). The only way to get back to the *old* temperatures and old equilibrium, that "better yet" point at the end, is to *remove* insulation (or remove sun, etc). And yet there is a woefully inadequate global response. We are struggling to slow down our global emissions, let alone stop them, which is what we need to do just to stabilize at *any* temperature. IMO, any kind of equilibrium, at any temperature, is a stretch for us right now. We need an enormous change in how we approach this, and/or a number of truly life-saving scientific discoveries to remove greenhouse gases or otherwise engineer our environment. In practice, we need both.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma, a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 11:55 am

We need to embrace nuclear energy as our main power source. Nuclear energy is the cleanest, most cost and energy effective power source on the planet.

Do not instantly close your mind to this energy source. Much of the negative information you think you might know about using nuclear technology is just plain wrong. Much has been promulgated by the fossil fuel industry and people/industries with particular axes to grind. The links below, particularly "Roadmap to Nowhere" will give you accurate information on Nuclear as an energy source, and the legion of short and long-term problems with wind and solar.

Please look at the links below:

Roadmap to Nowhere -
The Myth of Powering the Nation with Renewable Energy
Web Link

Molten Salt Reactors - cheap, reliable, CO2-free electric power, now.
Web Link

Thorium Energy Alliance - Much information about Thorium and the molten salt reactor technology
Web Link



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tot Logic, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 1:20 pm

One finds it fascinating when, in trying to frame an argument, a poster lies with their first set of "claims".

Nuclear energy is not cost-effective. Nuclear energy is not cheap. If the poster seeks to prove otherwise, please answer a few questions ( with links:)

- what was the cost of construction for the last nuclear plant completed in the United States?

- what is the cost of decommissioning the the most recent nuclear plant in the United States?

- what would be the cost of insuring, through the private marketplace, a new nuclear plant in the United States?

The last question is, of course, a trick question. No insurance company would insure a nuclear plant in the United States.

Clean, safe, cheap nuclear plants are the Holy Grail. Current technology, however, allows us to choose only two of the three values listed.

After we choose 'clean' and 'safe', 'cheap' does not figure into the equation.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PA Grandma, a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 2:55 pm

@ Tot Logic

Read the documentation.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tot Logic, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 3:05 pm

I did read it. Futurist fantasy hopes and dreams. Why not a link to fantasy hyperloop to replace planes?!?

Your turn - answer questions about cost. Without referring to the marketing materials of a startup whose product doesn't even EXIST YET, other than a 2019 'study' planned for Indonesia.

How much for a new nuclear plant 8. The United States? When does the first watt roll down the wire?

Last plant? Decommissioning?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tot Logic, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Your link:

"In 2019 the Ministry of Energy began a study of the safety, economics, and grid impact of the 500 MW prototype ThorConIsle."


Wow. A study! Proof!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tot Logic, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Your "experts" at the roadmap link:

"Mike Conley is a writer... Fascinated by science since he was a child..."

"Tim Maloney is a retired community college professor of electronics and machine control."

Your solution is a term paper pushed by a startup company that got these two cats to bash green energy.

Hey, maybe it works. But putting stock in that now? Like saying that the Giants 2025 5th round draft pick is a mortal lock for the HOF.

Could happen!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 4:07 pm

"Nuclear energy is not cost-effective."

As with any cost-benefit analysis, the validity of that proclamation depends on which factors you include and which you ignore.

If you compare nuclear straight-across to coal while ignoring global warming, I grant your point. If you factor in the effects on climate change, then you must decide the benefits of saving some money in the short run vs having a habitable planet with reliable electric power in the long run. In other words, what price a livable earth?

Insurance? Easy: government. Exempt certain liabilities by law, and set up insurance funds for others, as CA is now doing to rescue PG&E from cost-ineffectiveness.

Face it. There is no alternative to nuclear for universal carbon-free baseline electric power.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Tot Logic, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Curmudgeon: you are correct about insurance, no private insurer will ever ensure nuclear, So government has stepped in in the past.

You are also correctly assessing nuclear and the baseline issue, it's clearly the 800-pound gorilla, capable of huge loads.

But our friend, @PAgrandma, has not yet answered the basic questions about the cost of nuclear energy. Would you like to take a shot, other than the generalities you've given us this far?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 5:59 pm

"But our friend, @PAgrandma, has not yet answered the basic questions about the cost of nuclear energy."

Kindly leave me out of your snarkasm, unless I'm the target, of course.


"Would you like to take a shot, other than the generalities you've given us this far?"

First, define "cost", other than the generalities you've given us this far.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 6:46 pm

my $.02:

- what was the cost of construction for the last nuclear plant completed in the United States?

- what is the cost of decommissioning the the most recent nuclear plant in the United States?

A new plant is somewhere around $10-15 billion, but it's been so long (~50 years) since one has been cost-effective enough to build, that one would assume it far, far exceeds whatever the last one cost. They also have a long history of cost over-runs. The initial cost is usually quoted as under ten billion, but those overruns.......

Decommissioning is expensive as well, measured in the billions, maybe 4 billion, maybe 5-10 billion, iirc. That undoubtedly doesn't account for the storage issues of hundreds or thousands of years; not just fuel rods, but one assumes the rest of the radioactive 'mess'.

For the life of a plant? For round, back-of-the-napkin numbers, take it as $20 billion, with over half upfront.

How many do we need? Ten? Fifty? One hundred?

------

From Wiki on the two plants under construction in Georgia (so while my ~50 year comment isn't completely accurate, very *few* projects have started since 1980.)

"Two additional units utilizing Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are under construction.

The units have suffered several delays and cost overruns. The certified construction & capital costs incurred by Georgia Power for these two new units were originally $14 billion, according to the Seventeenth Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report in 2017.[10]

This last report blames the latest increase of costs on the contractor not completing work as scheduled. Another complicating factor in the construction process is the bankruptcy of Westinghouse in 2017.[11]

In 2018 costs were estimated to be about $25 billion.[2] Upon completion of Units 3 and 4, Vogtle will become the largest nuclear power station in the United States."

-----

So they admit $25 billion for two new units, but who knows how many more cost overruns will occur? And it bankrupted Westinghouse.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 10:36 pm

"So they admit $25 billion for two new units, but who knows how many more cost overruns will occur?"

$25B versus how many trillion$ in the US annual GDP? We can easily afford nuclear power.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by population control, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 24, 2019 at 11:47 pm

Nothing will fix our environmental problems but the obvious but unspoken solution - population control. With 8 billion people all vying to drive cars, eat meat and consume we will never fix overheating the earth, over consuming our resources and killing most other large life forms on earth. Interesting that no one every discusses population control for all countries of the world as part of any scheme to control global warming or slow the man-caused extinction crisis.

Humans are such foolish animals, in the end they all revert to only trying to get what they want for themselves, not what is best for the world. So ultimately there is no hope for us as a species. Collectively our greed will continue to destroy the planet.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 11:32 am

Nice line about cost overruns for nuclear, from the plant referenced above that is bringing two new units online (someday.)

The costs on the first two units started in 1976: "During Vogtle's first two units construction, capital investment required jumped from an estimated $660 million to $8.87 billion."

Missed it by *this* (thumb and forefinger close together) much!


-----


> $25B versus how many trillion$ in the US annual GDP? We can easily afford nuclear power.

Well, that argument works for everything, doesn't it?

"$xxB versus how many trillion$ in the US annual GDP? We can easily afford (insert program here)."

Ballpark, how new nuclear power plants would the need? 50? 100?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:46 pm

"Well, that argument works for everything, doesn't it?"

Pretty much. It's all about priorities and perspective.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:07 pm

True.

Well, since the "nuclear is great" bumper-sticker brigade declines to offer numbers (cost of construction, decommissioning, overruns, quantity,) let's continue.

Let's say in their scenario we need 100 nuclear plants (I honestly haven't looked at numbers, maybe we need 200? more?) Disregarding the NIMBY factors, storage of the most toxic waste ever, etc.., ballpark lifetime costs are somewhere around $20+ billion per, based on @totlogic above and the Vogtle monstrosities (we both know that's optimistic.)

100 plants at $20B each. Several trillion. Without a single watt available for 15-20 years.

Taking into account the economic boost, ten trillion for the Green New Deal sounds intriguing.

Imagine that.

After all, $10T versus how many trillion$ in the US GDP for the next decade?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:19 pm

@C: That was fun. I clearly don't know a LOT about all this:

- if nukes are even realistic at that volume (so many dozens have been proposed in the last 40 years and never built) and so many other issues with nuclear

- if we will keep getting the rapid growth in value of solar and other renewables (ie.. efficiency and lower costs)

- if we will get similar rapid growth in storage technology (batteries, etc..; again: more efficient and declining costs)

You can go thru and rip my numbers apart pretty easily.

Despite (my) friend @grandmainpA hoping new nuke tech will evolve rapidly and decline in costs, it really hasn't in years. I'm sure we're both old enough to remember fusion.

Renewables and storage are in the opposite place - they're in the 'hockey-stick' phase of technology growth and cost reductions.

We have to move rapidly. I choose the side of the coin that says 'renewables'.

thanks, Sherry, for hosting.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,

>> "Nuclear energy is not cost-effective."

>> As with any cost-benefit analysis, the validity of that proclamation depends on which factors you include and which you ignore.

Admittedly, a fair question.

>> If you compare nuclear straight-across to coal while ignoring global warming, I grant your point. If you factor in the effects on climate change, [...] Face it. There is no alternative to nuclear for universal carbon-free baseline electric power.

Actually, I think that there is. A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro, is probably cheaper in the West and South/Southeast, than nuclear, when you factor in all the "security" costs of nuclear. Check out the chart on the bottom of this "industry" report: Web Link But, I am willing to concede that for the upper midwest, nuclear looks like it might be the cheapest option, although advanced combined cycle (gas turbine+steam generator)+Carbon-Capture is competitive with nuclear, and which I prefer. People also should realize that the fixed costs of the common electrical grid are fairly high, and, about the same regardless of sources: Web Link

Nuclear has issues. Everybody watched "The China Syndrome", and now is "Chernobyl", but, what people should be studying are the documentaries about Fukushima. The sequence of events fits the scenarios regarding this type of configuration that environmentalists always worried about. Figure the probabilities and add that to the cost of nuclear.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 4:02 pm

"A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro, is probably cheaper in the West and South/Southeast, than nuclear, when you factor in all the "security" costs of nuclear."

To be honest that should read "A putative combination of wind ...". The word "probably" may be appropriate, but I'd use "hopefully". Hope is a good thing, but we have 60 years real experience that nuclear works, even in cloudy weather and at night and when the wind isn't blowing. And remember that batteries go dead when supplying energy.

"Figure the probabilities and add that to the cost of nuclear."

It isn't the probabilities; it's the product of the probabilities and the Fear Factor. I bet that, if nuclear mishaps were as common as auto or bicycle mishaps, nobody would pay much attention to them. But unfortunately for nuclear power prospects, nuclear mishaps are rare.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 7:12 pm

@Ms Listgarten

Excellent summary of the radiation balance.

Your Columbia U reference Web Link contains the clincher global greenhouse effect demonstration. Unfortunately, the author fails to drive the point home, and also has a typo in the key equation.

The equation for the no-greenhouse effective temperature, Te, should not have the capital A. It is a stray typo. The author correctly evaluates the no-greenhouse earth temperature as Te = -18C, which is 0F, meaning the earth would be chilling at roughly the temperature of a household freezer if it had no greenhouse gases. But, thanks to our GHGs, we are comfortably at about 60F. At the moment.

As an exercise for the curious, apply that corrected Te equation to Mars, which has no GHGs, and compare the results to the temperatures NASA measures. Then do Venus, which has abundant GHG.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marty, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm

The equation for an all nuke grid means adding about 400 reactors.

About 20% of our power is created by about 100 reactors, currently. Many of those need replacing (near end of life) so call it 500 reactors.

The pro-nuke posters really oughta post some numbers.

What will it cost to build 500 reactors, and when will they be ready?

For that amount, what are the alternatives, if any?

Y'all be nice to each other now, yaheah?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 25, 2019 at 10:15 pm

"The pro-nuke posters really oughta post some numbers."

Here you go: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811. Your turn.

"What will it cost to build 500 reactors, and when will they be ready?"

It will cost exactly 500 x (average cost of reactor ensemble members), and they will be ready when they are done.

My turn now. How many windmills are needed to provide the same continuous gigawattage, where will they need to be installed, how much will they cost, and when will they be operational?

Look. Neither of us will ever have the info to answer these questions, so why not quit being silly.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Jun 26, 2019 at 6:37 am

Neal is a registered user.

The most sensible comment was posted by population control. As usual, that issue is casually ignored. Heaven forbid we try to reduce the real source of human caused global warming. Nuclear power will make more sense when the planet has to cope with a few more billion energy hungry people.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 26, 2019 at 9:05 am

Ten trillion over 20-30 years to build (the nearly impossible amount of) 500 new reactors.

Put ten trillion into renewables and they would yield benefits (compared to waiting for reactors) almost immediately.

re: Curmudgeon's "silly" comment - one notes immediately following your comment, the reemergence of the 'population control' guys... you were prescient!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 26, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hey guys, sorry I am late to the nuclear party here :) Really interesting conversation. I’m pretty sure it won’t be resolved any time soon! There are reasonable people on each side, particularly given, as @Curm says, it is so hard to evaluate the costs and the risks. At some point, though, I think that backing away from nuclear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the West pulls away, it becomes more expensive and slower for us to build or even repair our facilities, and we have less expertise to develop the operations or technology.

I am encouraged to see the innovation that @PA Grandma points to. ThorCon seems to have a credible team and some interesting ideas. We are in a deep energy hole, and I am happy to have capable teams exploring ways for us to get power. I think diversity in our power sources is a good thing, at least up to a point (cost, efficiency).

I really appreciate those of you who took the time to provide references and summarize them, and take a respectful conversational approach. And @Curm even read the footnotes!

On the population side of things, it has a huge impact on the planet and on our emissions. It is discussed, though often in different ways (e.g., educating girls). FWIW, I was interested to see “The Empty Planet” on a list of books recommended by faculty at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences. I especially liked the commentary by the professor who recommended it. "I like books that challenge my view of the world and provide data or evidence to back up their argument," said Earth System Science professor David Lobell. "This book does both of those."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 26, 2019 at 3:19 pm

"Put ten trillion into renewables and they would yield benefits (compared to waiting for reactors) almost immediately."

OK, we're at the nexus here. Help me understand the compelling advantage of sinking ten trillion smackaroos into a power grid wholly dependent on the vagaries of nature, versus investing the same amount in a technology proven to yield a steady reliable controllable energy flow.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by tin foil hats, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 26, 2019 at 4:08 pm

C: I'll spend time on something tomorrow, but I wanted to quickly respond to the pop-bomb posters. I normally ignore them because they're usually unresponsive, but...

I'm a little leery of the 'educating women' component. We shouldn't educate 'girls' and offer full health services to women in order to get a handle on population. We should do so *because it's the right thing to do.*

Once that is done, what are the other steps these posters imagine need to happen?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 11:18 am

Aside from the physics and science of the matter, the whole thing is really
national and political.

I don't agree with Trump or the Republicans on anything, but the idea that
the US only has to totally disrupt our economy and lifestyles is not warranted ...
or at least it is not warranted any more than it would be if there were no global
warming. In general, we treat the environment like we hate it, so I am in favor
or changing that 180 degrees and reserving much more of nature to be left
alone or preoductive in a natural permaculture state.

But, that is not the point. I recently read some books by Robert A. Muller who
wrote the "Physics For Future Presidents" book. It is a brilliant idea and a
brilliant book. Muller started out after seeing the wholesale lies and exaggerations
in Al Gore's movies as a climate change skeptic. Not really a true denier because
he is too much of an honest scientist for that.

He got together with other scientists and reviewed the data from the IPCC and
they determined there is nothing that tracks with the rise in Earth's temperature
but CO2, period. The data are good for about 300 years.

Now the problem is, what is it coming from, and Muller's conclusions is that the
main culprit and problem is coal. If the US were to not exist tomorrow, the Earth
would still be at risk from the huge and growing coal use by China and India also.

They account for more than 2/3 of climate change. So, that is a conundrum for
The US and the West.

It matters more about how we look at the problem to solve it, we already know it
is for real. For now the only acceptable action would be to burn natural gas as it
has the least CO2, but in the long run wind and solar will not take the place of
coal and oil for a long time if ever, so we have to get serious about whether we
can stand for or stomach using nuclear, and of course allow other countries to
use nuclear as well.

Not a lot of good choices here or unilateral choices. Muller says the US should
give China fracking technology so they can switch from coal to natural gas.
Would our oil companies do that without heavy compensation, even to save
the planet? Guess we will find out.

I really recommend the book, and listening to Muller's lectures or interviews on
You-Tube, even if you think you diametrically disagree.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 11:32 am

> - what was the cost of construction for the last nuclear plant completed in the United States?

Yes, but all means talk about how posters lie and then try to frame the issue around the cost
of the last nuclear powerplant build in the US.

If we found a design, with safeguards, and I agree that is the question, the issue, then mass
producing them the cost comes way down, as does the cost to operate.

The world has had in the last 40 years ( since Three Mile Island ) 3 major counting TMI, which
really was not major, nuclear accidents. Chernobyl and Fukushima. The fatalities from these
accidents sadly cannot be objectively evaluated against the fatalities from coal and oil, nor
the costs in terms of military preparedness to keep world oil flowing. The fear of nuclear still
makes rational discussion almost impossible.

Nuclear will have to have its time very soon because the people in the thrid world will demand
more energy and they cannot have it with coal and oil or the planet will just keep getting
hotter and hotter.

Everyone cannot be right, and most of us have been exposed to outrageous exaggerations
from both sides, but that doesn't mean we do not have to do something. And by "we" I mean
China, India and the developing world, because the US is just a small fraction of the problem
right now.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 11:53 am

Climate Skeptic Richard Muller Admits Global Warming is Real and Humans are the Cause
Interview With Democracy Now! from way back in 2012: Web Link

DemocracyNow.org - After years of denying global warming, physicist Richard Muller now says "global warming is real and humans are almost entirely the cause." The admission by Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley and founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, has gained additional attention because some of his research has been funded by Charles Koch of the Koch Brothers, the right-wing billionaire known for funding climate skeptic groups like the Heartland Institute. "We can make the scientific case more solidly than had been made in the past," Muller claims. "I think this does say we do need to take action, we do need to do something about it."

The problem is "nobody really likes my message, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats" - Richard Muller

Maybe that is why nothing has gotten any more clear since 2012 when Muller wrote his article for the New York Times.

New York Times - The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic by Richard A. Muller - 2012/07/28: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@CrescentParkAnon -- Thanks for the comments. It's nice when a prominent skeptic converts. Skeptical Science has a page devoted to damaging and false comments that Richard A. Muller made prior to his conversion in 2012. So kudos to those who were able to provide him the convincing studies, and to him for keeping an open mind.

Muller makes good points in his more recent conversations about the need for objectivity and how difficult that is. When topics are complex, communications are simplified, and those simplifications can easily reflect some form of bias, unconscious or not. And his sentiment that fear of nuclear is more emotional than rational is shared by many others.

I'm curious about your claim that China and India account for 2/3 of climate change. That is unlike anything I have seen. Do you have a reference? Or did I misunderstand? Your larger point that all top emitters need to make reductions is spot on.

FWIW, on global emissions, I would encourage you to keep in mind that CO2 emissions are long lasting. CarbonBrief's cumulative emissions metrics are useful there, as cited in this Vox article. The US is by far the largest emitter. But even if you just look at a recent year, while China is the worst offender, the US is emitting far more than India, as is Europe (collectively), though India's emissions are growing more quickly.

These metrics are for CO2 only. Methane is also a significant factor, but doesn't change the overall picture of top contributors much.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Hey Sherry.

I guess I like Muller's statements. His early statements were inquiries and
complaints that the data and the presentation was not better as I read them.

Then he got serious and did it himself, with the help of other scientists, and
ironically funded by the Koch Brothers. I have to admit that is what I get a
kick out of.

A lot of the comments you pointed to of Mullers were proper skepticism,
but I guess we can agree the outcome was educational for many.

On the question of nuclear I am on the fence leaning towards nuclear, but
I am iffy on the question can humans design it intelligently and run it
responsibly. BUT, the main thing is that after the worst failures that are
most likely possible, they were not that bad, and were not world threatening -
when stacked against the damage that coal mining and burning does,
and oil and gas drilling and burning does.

I buy Muller's statements that the US is not a real problem, which is sad
because we have so many people who want to work hard to solve this
problem.

That is not my claim about China and I may be expressing it incorrectly.
Here is a short transcript of Muller's conversation in Democracy Now!
years ago ...

> MULLER: The most important thing, there are two things that are really important.
> One is there's an enormous amount that can be done with energy efficiency and
> conservation: better automobiles, better insulation in homes. The second thing
> that we need to do, and this is equally important, is to recognize that *natural* *gas*
> *emits* *one* *third* *the* *carbon* *dioxide* *of* *coal* .

> And the future emissions, unfortunately, are not within the U.S. control. By the end
> of this year, China will be emitting twice the carbon dioxide as the U.S., and they're
> growing rapidly whereas our carbon dioxide emissions have been going down over
> the last few years.

Another article states:
> While the per capita average for the world as a whole is 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide,
> China is now producing 7.2 tonnes per person, to the EU's 6.8 tonnes. The US is
> still far ahead on 16.5 tonnes per person.

So, China produces less per person, but
- China has 1.34 billion people ( emitting 7 tons per person )
- India has 1.19 billion people ???
- United States has .310 billion people ( emitting 17 tons per person )

So, China has about 4 times the number of people as the US, but each Chinese
emits little less than half the CO2 of what Americans emit, but since their population
is 4 times our, they emit almost twice as much CO2.

If China was to upgrade, especially with coal to equal US per capita CO2 emissions
they would be emitting over four as much as the US and over twice what they are today.

Another thing Muller has said ... and this is just because rereading his book some
of it is fresh in my mind is that there are a lot of mths about global warming.

For instance, there are not more hurricane today, we track hurricane with
satellites now and so we count more of the ones out at sea which makes it seem
like there are more.

Also, he stated somewhere that CO2 is not as long-lasting in the atmosphere
as is claimed. He said something like half of it is gone in a year, and the rest
dissipates over the next 10 years.

I was surprised reading this because there is a lot of good stuff in Muller's talks,
and it has been out there for 7 years now.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Hey "population control" above .... can you explain what it is you mean SPECIFICALLY when you say population control? How in your mind is that supposed to happen, and in a way that is acceptable to all who are participating in your plan?

Certainly if we do not do something at some point, the population will be controlled by circumstances ... but you spoke up, so what is your alternative?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by key lime pie, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 5:26 pm

"If we found a design, with safeguards, and I agree that is the question, the issue, then mass
producing them the cost comes way down, as does the cost to operate."

That ambiguous claim applies to renewables as well.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 5:51 pm

"That ambiguous claim applies to renewables as well."

Be that as it may, renewables will always be subject to the vagaries of clouds, wind, and drought. Even whiz-bang batteries run down. Think brownouts/blackouts during extended periods of unfavorable weather. It gets old fast.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 30, 2019 at 6:29 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@CrescentParkAnon

Now if only Muller could change the Koch brother’s minds…

Yes, we have to compare the risk of using nuclear energy against the risk of not using nuclear energy. And ideally we’d have informed people making those decisions, dispassionately. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) There are prominent and thoughtful scientists on both sides. The world is going in two very different directions, with the West divesting and the East investing. At least in this case the world doesn’t have to agree on a direction. I expect there will be more difficult decisions ahead where the world will need to agree. Yikes.

On emissions from natural gas: Yes, burning natural gas releases much less carbon dioxide than coal. (I’ve seen one-half, not one-third.) But that is not the whole story. When you look at the production and distribution of natural gas, methane leaks are a big problem. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, and those leaks mean that natural gas is nearly as bad as coal for the environment, though measurements and metrics are evolving. You can read some about that in an earlier blog post I did, or read this article by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Natural gas is no panacea.

Yes, China’s per-capita emissions today are much lower than ours, but their total emissions today are much higher. A really good source for CO2 emissions (again, this doesn’t include methane) is the Global Carbon Budget. Their latest presentation is here. See pages 11 and forward for lots of information about per-country emissions.

Regarding hurricanes and storms more generally, attribution is an evolving science, and good scientists are quite careful. What I tend to read is that we can show that the *intensity* of storms is increasing, but we do not have good data on whether the *frequency* is increasing. Here is a relevant article.

Finally, regarding the persistence of carbon dioxide, Muller is right that about half of the added CO2 is absorbed by forests and the ocean. But some persists much longer. I think the science is evolving, but this writeup from Yale gives a sense of the complexity.

It sounds to me like Muller is complaining about misrepresentations of science and the way that science is sometimes communicated. That is a fine thing to complain about -- we have to be careful which sources we use and how we relate what we know. Climate communication is tricky. Scientists I have spoken with are very careful with the words that they choose. But it’s like a game of whisper down the lane. And then you throw politicians into the mix… Or bloggers :)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 1, 2019 at 9:49 am


Apparently they call that leaking methane, "fugitive methane", and Muller and
his daughter, have written about it here and fairly recently: Web Link

In The Facts About Fugitive Methane, published by the Centre for Policy Studies on Monday 26 October 2015, Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at the University of California, reveals that previous estimates of methane leakage in shale gas production have been seriously over-estimated.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, has a high greenhouse potential, and opponents of shale gas production argue that even if one or two percent of the gas leaks, the advantage of natural gas over coal would be negated.

Elizabeth and Richard Muller's new research now shows this estimate is incorrect:
over a 100 year time span, an implausible 12% of the produced natural gas used today would have to leak in order to negate an advantage over coal.
The best current estimates for the average leakage across the whole supply chain are below 3%; even at 3% leakage natural gas would produce less than half the warming of coal averaged over the 100 years following emission.
Half this 100 year average comes from the first 10 years; three-quarters from the first 20 years; the warming at 100 years is almost entirely from the (relatively low) CO2 produced from burned methane, not from the leaked methane itself.
An additional reason to produce electric power from natural gas is that the legacy advantage of natural gas is enormous; after 100 years, only 0.03% of leaked gas remains in the atmosphere, compared to 36% for remnant carbon dioxide.
Elizabeth and Richard Muller comment:

“The concerns over fugitive methane is based on the following true but easily misinterpreted facts about methane:

Methane, when released to the atmosphere, has Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 86 over a 20 year period. This means that methane is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, pound for pound, averaged over the 20 years following the emission.
Methane leakage has been observed in range 6.2% to 11.7% based on measurements taken of the air above some drilling areas.
But the maths described above is incorrect, and as a result the conclusions are incorrect:

When comparing coal to methane for equal electric power, the 20-year global warming potential of methane compared to carbon dioxide is 11, not 86.
Legacy warming from fugitive methane is minuscule compared to that of carbon dioxide.
Average leakage today is far below dangerous levels."
Media Impact:

City A.M.: Dangers of fracking "greatly overestimated", Centre For Policy Studies suggests
Yorkshire Post: Dangers of fracking for shale gas 'have been greatly overestimated'
Daily Caller: Study: Shale Gas Emissions Are Massively Overestimated
Energy Live News: 'Environmental benefits of shale gas underestimated'
Platts: Shale gas methane leakage 'seriously overestimated': UK think tank
Oil and Gas News: Top scientists show that environmental benefits of shale gas have been underestimated


Richard & Elizabeth Muller - Monday 26th October 2015

--

But even if the weights were much closer natural gas just makes a lot more sense
for other reasons, like cleaner burning, less polluting, no tailings, less dangerous to
harvest. I don't know, it seems like a win and the best that can be done in addition to
conservation and more efficeint products. One thing Muller really pushed is people
insulating their houses, specificallt their attics. That is good for everyone and a
money-maker for most too.

It is true, our system is a large part of the problem. We run on lies and propaganda and
quick waves of emotion in favor of whoever can bring the most to bear. Our political
system is a failure, and our economic system has created increasing inequality, corruption,
failure across almost every measured dimension in the Developed World.

I guess we are lucky that Muller says it doesn't much matter what the US does, our
actions have not been so coherent, and have not produced coherence in our citizens.
I sure hope Putin's comment of yesterday about democracy failing is incorrect.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jul 1, 2019 at 10:46 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Crescent -- Thank you for providing all that detail. It’s great that you are looking into all this! From what I can tell, the Mullers are continuing to push back against how findings are communicated. I am not seeing a new finding or a new direction in their writeup. (The Centre for Policy Studies is a conservative policy organization, not a science organization, anyway.)

The point about methane degrading more quickly is true. It is more powerful than CO2, but over a much shorter time frame. That is one reason why researchers at Stanford are interested in converting atmospheric methane to CO2 -- it would buy us time. FWIW, the fugitive emission rates I have heard are 2-3%. Here is a recent, widely cited paper on fugitive emissions, summarized here, with a note about gas vs coal (gas still being somewhat cleaner, just not as much as people thought).

As you can imagine, oil and gas companies are racing to clean up the leaks (why not, it saves them money!), and companies are racing to provide technology for them to do that. Drones! It’s nice to have easy wins like this. Natural gas without leaks is better than natural gas with leaks.

Great point about energy efficiency -- we need much more of that. It can be a lot easier than switching energy systems, as the Mullers say. At the end of the day, though, I think we need to stop burning fossil fuels. I don’t see a way around that, because I doubt we will have negative emissions at scale for atmospheric CO2 for a while. But how to get there, realistically, in every country, is something we have to figure out. I understand why the Mullers are struggling with that!

You make very good, if not optimistic, points about our governing systems, and how they make a tough global problem that much more difficult to address.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by DemocracyNow?, a resident of another community,
on Jul 2, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Someone who cites Democracy Now has lost all credibility. You might as well cite Drudge Report too while you're at it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jul 2, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

You mean @Crescent's source for the "Muller converted" video above? The media bias report for Democracy Now doesn't look like it's factually bad. (The one for Drudge Report looks awful.) And that same poster also cites the Centre for Policy Studies, which is pretty right. I give @Crescent props for citing sources. And it seems like he's looking at a variety. So that's a start. Finding the good sources is I think a critical skill in this day and age. I bet most of us are still figuring that out. Well, I am, anyway.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by DemocracyNow?, a resident of another community,
on Jul 2, 2019 at 8:15 pm

Taking a look at Media Bias/Fact Check

"Who in the heck is Dave Van Zandt?

Dave Van Zandt obtained a Communications Degree before pursuing a higher degree in the sciences. Dave currently works full time in the health care industry. Dave has spent more than 20 years as an arm chair researcher on media bias and its role in political influence."

"How do you determine the bias of a source?

Please see our comprehensive Methodology page. Keep in mind this is not a scientifically proven methodology."

Arm chair expertise with an unproven methodology. Sounds credible to me.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jul 2, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Yeah, it's kind of circular, isn't it? I find the site useful, though I'm sure imperfect. There's some analysis of it here but no authoritative evaluation afaik. (Whoa, the American College of Pediatricians sounds so wholesome, doesn't it?)

Thanks for the good comment!



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