General Climate Discussion #5

Clean thread, clean thread, move down!

mad-hatter-2

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1,140 thoughts on “General Climate Discussion #5

  1. https://earth-pages.co.uk/2017/01/20/ancient-co2-estimates-worry-climatologists/

    Most stories about climate sensitivity that come to my attention express concern that it’s higher than the current estimate, because I mostly come across such stories on pages that worry a lot about it. So it’s easy to get the impression that, more and more, the evidence is pointing to an ECS higher than 3C. SJ – you have a better idea of the state of science than I do. Is it your sense that the weight of evidence is shifting toward a higher ECS, or am I just being exposed to the more alarming of papers?

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  2. Thanks SJ. I’ m guessing, were it not for the El Nino, thisnyear would have been cooler than the last few. Obviously there’s been a warming trend in the last 100 or so years but the inclination of it’s increase is, I think, not as steep as some would have us believe.

    If one lesson has come out of this for me, it’s to be particularly careful with anything the media gets it’s hands on. I knew it already but sometimes I need one more reminder.

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    • I think I’ve said this before, but it’s important not to treat “the media” as a single entity. The Federalist is a highly partisan website, and on climate specifically it’s no better than a random blog. The only thing it has in common with, say, the New York Times is that they both have a website ending in “.com”.

      Here’s a decent answer to your question of what 2016 would have looked like without an El Niño: https://twitter.com/ClimateOfGavin/status/821749834877194241

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        • Compared to what? Not sure how to answer your question… I mean, the best understanding of ice age CO2 drawdown has been that the Southern Ocean is the biggest player, so this seems to fit with that. I can give you the last paragraph of that paper:

          Our findings also have important implications for the global carbon cycle in a warming climate. As the upper ocean warms and stratifies, subtropical biomes dominated by picoplankton that form small, slow-sinking particles are expected to expand. Combined with direct effects of warming on microbial respiration, this might shoal the mean depth of organic particle remineralization and recirculate carbon to the surface mixed layer on shorter timescales. Quantifying and predicting these climate feedbacks will first require a deeper mechanistic understanding of the factors responsible for varying transfer efficiency in the modern ocean than our statistical analysis provides. This might be achieved using realistic models of particle size spectra, ballasting, and remineralization (11, 32), constrained by our diagnostic flux estimates and further guided by novel in situ respiration measurements (35) and size-resolved particle counts provided by visual profilers (31).

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  3. Dear Scott and ALL,

    Note: this is a long read/watch on aspects of climate change, market-solutions, corporate leaders, and scientific integrity, and how this all might be inter-related.

    I just watched a video of Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), who is presently considering running for the Mayor of London, giving the Keynote address at The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) Blue-Green Summit a few days ago. ACRE calls their seven regional partners to be the US Republican Party, the Canadian Conservative Party, the Israeli Likud Movement, the Moroccan Istiqlal Party, Afek Tounes from Tunisia, as well as the New Zealand National Party and the Australian Liberal Party. In this video at 1:15 minute mark Liebreich says that he’s “proud to have been called a climate denier by Michael [E.] Mann”.

    What is particularly disturbing to me is that Liebreich in a Twitter exchange called Mann “sloppy” and “appalling” citing as evidence of Richard Muller’s 2011 lecture in which allegedly Mann (remember “Climategate”?) uses ‘a trick to hide a decline’. Here is the video of that 5-minute segment:

    However, this was thoroughly debunked by Peter Sinclair at Climatecrocks.com in this video, and John Cook below that:

    https://climatecrocks.com/2011/04/28/unwinding-hide-the-decline/

    John Cook at Skeptical Science in this article:

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/Muller-Misinformation-1-confusing-Mikes-trick-with-hide-the-decline.html

    Peter Sinclair recorded this interview with Dr. Richard Muller in 2015 in which he admits he was wrong about climate science in 2011:

    Thus, my question. Sorry for being so longwinded, but it’s really important to set the context.

    Leibreich doubled-down after I pointed all this out to him, and suggested I read this book by Mark Steyn, titled A Disgrace to the Profession”. This book looks to me like US Senator Inhofe’s book, *The Greatest Hoax hit-piece on Michael E. Mann, full of climate denial propaganda, and some true. What’s your take on this book? Have you read it or heard anything about it?

    A weird thing here is that Leibreich is the superstar of BNEF which positions itself as a leader in clean energy finance (including gas shale), but in reality he’s supporting climate denial sources. What’s your background knowledge of Dr Muller at BEST and his history of scientific integrity? Any clues?

    Thanks,

    Balan

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    • Hi Balan-

      I can tell you a few things. Mark Steyn is a loud-mouthed polemicist in the mold of James Delingpole. Steyn is the fill-in host of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, which should tell you a lot. If you want a better sense of him and his book, he features prominently in the story I wrote after attending the Heartland Institute’s “skeptics” conference: https://arstechnica.com/science/2015/07/i-rejoice-that-it-is-warm-ars-attends-a-climate-contrarian-conference/

      Steyn is the primary person being sued by Michael Mann for defamation.

      Muller is a prominent physicist who voiced some arrogant doubts about climate science, leading up to that Berkeley Earth project. The scientists hired for that project did good work, and the results have validated all the existing temperature datasets. Subsequently, Muller has gone around claiming that “Well, it was perfectly reasonable to have doubts before, but now I’ve solved it.” It’s still self-aggrandizing arrogance, but I think he has dropped all the skepticism he displayed earlier (and to be fair, let’s give credit where its due) along with the conspiratorial insinuations.

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  4. World population is slated to hit 8 billion in the next few years. According to this article,

    http://blog.oup.com/2017/02/population-eight-billion/

    by about 2024. Optimistic, when you consider that we’ve been adding another billion souls roughly every decade since the 80’s, an interval that is decreasing as our breeding pace increases,

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/UN_DESA_continent_population_1950_to_2100.svg

    At the pace at which we’re reproducing, we’ll be hitting more DOUBLE the current world population by 2100.

    But how many people is that really, put in a context we can all understand? If you placed all of us shoulder to shoulder in a single place, say New York City, our numbers would just about fill that entire area. Doesn’t sound too bad now, hmmm? Further, if we were stacked one atop the other, in a huge building in that same city, this is how large that building would need to be to accomodate us so far,

    The first thing that comes to mind when we see this picture is, ‘Wow, there aren’t that many of us after all!’ The second thing that comes to mind is, ‘Damn, we’re a REALLY destructive species!’

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  5. As a massive sudden release of methane was the foundation of Guy McPherson’s predictions of Near Term Human Extinction, the release of this article brings that particular argument
    to a conclusion,

    https://www.usgs.gov/news/gas-hydrate-breakdown-unlikely-cause-massive-greenhouse-gas-release

    Thus, climate change as a near term disaster for humans is, I think, greatly eased. In the long run, hundreds or maybe thousands of years hence, clearly there will be problems. Likely there will be. But, at least for now, at least in terms of human extinction, concerns, I think we can all relax.

    Of course this says nothing about the long term degradation of our planet under our human scorched earth policy of running our civilization, and the extinctions of animal species are moving along at a nice clip. Perhaps someday we’ll evolve into a compassionate species before we are the only animals left standing.

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  6. John, (I don’t know if I’m welcome to make a science comment — if not I’ll just go away again).

    Carol Ruppel is hardly a reliable source, judging by her comments on the Siberian crater eruptions, and her paper is just one paper, which doesn’t settle things in science (unless it’s J. Hansen :) ). Even Ed Duglokencky believes there has been an increase in seabed methane emissions in the Arctic, having progressed from a zero-increase stance, I believe.

    As for GM, if you want to hold him strictly to his word of “extinction”, that would be pretty hard to accomplish short of all out nuclear war (not sure if that would even do it?), but if you’ll settle for collapse of civilization + deaths in the billions, that could easily be right around the corner with several meters of sea level rise which Hansen has shown is possible and arguably even likely without drastic near-term cuts in emissions. Certainly nothing you want to gamble on unless you’re playing with other people’s lives or maybe you just don’t give a shit.

    And while the ice core record makes it pretty certain that there was no methane burst below +2C, we’re not that far away from that point, and even without a catastrophic eruption, “merely” losing our ability to control greenhouse gas levels dooms life on the planet at the centuries level. Is that not depressing enough for you? As the bard has said “the future is wide, wide open”.

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  7. Huh? Are people being censored? I thought this was a no censor site. I think I must be the slowest guy in the world. I had no idea Bill was on the outs. Can’t imagine why he would be. Seemed like a pretty ok guy to me. I think I read most of the comments. As far as I knew, he didn’t say anything particularly egregious. Look at Nemesis. Now there was an abrasive guy and still he posted right along. I don’t get it.

    Well anyway, thanks Bill for your comment. I read it and appreciate your thoughts, as I do everyone elses. I agree, it does appear that ice is melting. That appears to be the general consensus even among some scientists. I’m guessing the authors of the paper on methane were saying that even with ice melt, the methane isn’t going to be a problem because there’s a lot less of it worldwide than was previously thought. Also, as the ice melts and the oceans rise, the increased depth adds still further pressure on the hydrates below and adds more water the methane will dissolve in before it reaches the surface and is released into the atmosphere. So perhaps permafrost is the only real source of methane that can be a problem, but probably not much there either.

    As far as human extinction is concerned, I’m guessing we don’t need methane for that to become a reality. We’re doing a fine job gradually but deliberately bringing that on ourselves. Just a thought – not that anyone asked.

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    • Bill was asked to leave a long time ago—I think he was the first person to start commenting here. You’d have to dig back into the history to see why.

      Nemesis was also asked to leave, though he/she has continued submitting comments intermittently. The moderation system grabbed your last comment because it included his/her name ;)

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      • Unless Bill’s talked to Ed, then he’s blowing smoke. I’ve talked with him extensively and he’s never said seabed methane emissions are increasing. In fact, he’s said the exact opposite.

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  8. Oh, well I don’t know how long your blog has been up. Probably long before I stumbled across it. Wasn’t Bill the guy who found all my old comments for me? I appreciated that. Seemed like an ok guy to me. But that’s just me.

    Well anyway, hey, it’s your blog. You can run it any way you want. If I get annoying, let me know. I have a tendency to do that without even knowing I was. Usually get read out on it eventually.

    You know SJ, I’m not really one of those hangers on kind of people. This is the only blog I comment on and I don’t actually much care if anyone else agrees or disagrees with a single word I say. Well, c’mon, I want to be honest. I care but I don’t care all that much. I ‘come here’ because sometimes I have something to say and no one who particularly wants to hear it. So I write it here. Important only to myself. I certainly don’t think one jot of what I say is going to change anything for the better. Lost that particular illusion decades ago. But I do always try to be honest even if it makes me look like a loon. Since people are so judgemental these days, thanks in part to our National Enquirer mentality some in the media have fostered, I expect a lot of people would agree with that assessment.

    Life.

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    • Hey, John. There is a long history with both Bill and Nemesis; if you’re truly interested, you can read through the old posts. I think Bill’s attitude and posting has changed for the better and I don’t mind him chiming in once in a while, but he did repeatedly, like Nemesis, really piss off a lot of folks making in hard not to ban them. In Bill’s case, he falsely accused Scott of some things which I don’t want to get into here. Check out the history. I must say, however, to be fair in my case, Bill has some of the best computer skills for retrieving past posts on this blog. Good on Bill for that. FWIW, Scott has got to be one of the most patient people I know in tolerating people who abuse this blog with their diarrhea-like postings after being warned repeatedly. Many folks asked for these folks to be banned, and Scott was very reluctant, and only did it as a last resort after God only knows (er, Bill knows) how many times they were asked to stop. Two key take-aways, 1) this blog is for discussing interesting stuff related to climate, McPherson, etc, not promoting political or personal agendas; 2) don’t falsely accuse others of things they aren’t guilty of without providing ample evidence.

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  9. Hey Balan, nice to see you. I couldn’t agree with you more!

    I think, in the grand scheme of things, there is a whole lot more going on in our world, both good and bad, then we ever individually realized. I’d rather focus on the good. Saw some videos lately of Paul Beckwith going after Guy McPherson (without actually naming him). I like Paul but I do have to say I think the intensity of these particular videos is just slightly disingenuous seeing as how he was saying something similar these past few years. I think people make mistakes. We’re not robots yet, though some are hard at work to remedy that situation. I think that this world would be a MUCH better place if we remembered that.

    Things change, not often for the better, but sometimes, yes, for the better. When I was a kid, for instance, science told us that animals don’t love, they don’t care about anything but survival. Damn, they even said animals don’t feel pain, so experimenting on them in quite horrendous ways was A-OK. Like the infamous LD50 test. Sweet. What’s amazing is that now that they know better, THEY’RE STILL DOING IT. So I guess, as long as it’s convenient for us, a lot more animals will have to suffer and die. Do animals care? (I suggest muting the audio as it can get a little repetitious)

    The point though, is that we can learn and adapt. Hopefully McPherson will too. My opinion, one of the last but one of the greatest things we can learn is to show a little understanding. Perhaps the greatest evolutionary jump we can make. By far.

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    • I think it’s much more about what’s going on deep within the Earth than what affects the atmosphere. I’m not quite sure why they mention pre-biotic methane on the early Earth, though, because I think it’s clear that life showed up before proper plate tectonics… Cool though!

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  10. Hi, John.

    Thanks for sharing personally about your childhood in this public forum; it’s a vulnerable thing to do and helps me get to know you better.

    I think it was Gandhi who said you can judge a civilization by how it treats animals, and yes, I agree. We need to learn and understand more – a great reason for this blog. Thank you, Scott and all who contribute here.

    I don’t think McPherson will change because he is well aware what he is doing – willfully misleading those who listen to him in the science of climate, in particular on methane. When you say Beckwith is “going after him”, did you mean Beckwith now disagrees with what McPherson is doing?

    Cheers!

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  11. Hi Balan,

    Yes, it does seem that Paul Beckwith disagrees with McPherson about the ‘danger’ of methane. If indeed it IS a danger. I wouldn’t know. But, the impression I get is that McPherson has said something that Beckwith took personally. I don’t know. But yeah, I don’t really care.

    I grew up with a kind of consuming love for animals. Mostly because I saw the way people were treating each other and the planet as a whole. That has most certainly NOT gotten better as we’ve learned more about animals. I’ve always felt sad that our 4-footed friends always draw the short end of the stick on our eternal quest for profits. I don’t see that changing.

    I’ve been hearing more about scientific solutions to the environmental mess we’ve created. Like mechanical bees.

    Some are saying, hey, we don’t need bees. We’ll figure out how to pollinate the crops we need ourselves. No problem.

    Bee optimistic: this drone can still pollinate plants even if all the bees die: Meet the artificial pollinators of tomorrow.
    http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/9/14549786/drone-bees-artificial-pollinators-colony-collapse-disorder

    Now this kind of thinking is spreading to other aspects of the natural world. But I think in doing so, we’re losing an essential part of what makes our world so beautiful. It seems to be the way we think. Check out this new ‘solution’ to melting ice in the arctic. Some will most definately find in this something to celebrate. To me, though, it would be yet another sad milestone on our trip to a depressingly dreary Blade Runner world,

    But hey, maybe that’s just me.

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  12. Dramatic disintegration of Canada permafrost threatens huge carbon release

    Permafrost, or frozen soil, is rapidly collapsing across a 52,000 square mile area in northwest Canada – about the size of the entire state of Alabama. New research from the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS) finds the permafrost thaw is intensifying, a dramatic disintegration that could speed up climate change.
    http://inhabitat.com/dramatic-disintegration-of-canada-permafrost-threatens-huge-carbon-release/

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  13. Thanks for posting this, John. I was going to post it, but got too depressed. It came from Inside Climate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news site where I trust the quality of the reporting, unlike AMEG. I’m really worried about this development and it seems to contradict earlier postings that there not so much to worry about. I think it’s important for all of us to thoroughly comment on this development as we’ve delved into CH4 permafrost emissions so much on this blog. Scott? Bill? Others? This link warrants in-depth discussion.

    Thanks.

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  14. Hi Balan.

    Yeah, same here. I don’t know what to make of a lot of the information out there. Not just on CC, but on just about everything we have our hands on. People say just about anything, whatever gets their view out there. Is methane a problem or is it not? I’m no scientist, but there are an awful lot of people on both sides of the argument who have opposing points of view. For whatever reasons. I tend to think, knowing our species, that we have to do some careful weeding to really understand what’s happening. Trust no one.

    My honest guess is that methane is more of a problem than some say, less than others say. Question than is, is that enough to make life unpleasant in the near future? I think we just have to sit back and see.

    One thing is clear, things aren’t getting better in a hurry.

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  15. Thanks Bryant. Yeah, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that when there are two sides to an argument, choose the middle.

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  16. It seems Earth’s climate is more sensitive than we’ve always assumed. And why not, climate since the dawn of man has been quite stable. No reason to believe anything could change. Course, we’ve only been pumping our shit into the air in quantity for a few decades. Looking at how thin our atmosphere is when viewed from space,

    it’s rather difficult to believe that the 2.4 million pounds of pollutants we dump into our atmosphere EVERY DAMN SECOND (based on 2012 estimates) will have no effect on the health of our ecosystem. But there is money to be made. Every cloud has a silver lining.

    Glass half full.

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  17. SJ,
    I read the excellent article you wrote on the Foster et al paleoclimate study. When you referred to us starting to bend the curve of emissions downwards, that caught my attention on a technical note. Would you say we’re moving in the direction of RCP 6, with an opportunity to get to 4.5?

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  18. The critical fact is the amount of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere, regardless of what emissions may or may not be. That figure has been rising at an alarming rate despite a supposed flattening of human caused emissions. If that continues, then we’d need to do a lot more than the Paris Agreement specified. However, as we’ve seen no significant actions to reduce emissions (except, possibly, from coal fired power stations, but they are still being built), then I think it’s safe to assume that humans will continue acting like humans and the Paris accord will remain no more than ink on paper.

    IMO.

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  19. My feeling on the matter is that there will be some improvement in places, more here, less there. But the overall upward trend in atmospheric accumulation of GHG will continue until we decide to manufacture and offer only emissions reduced products both for industrial and consumer use worldwide. For what it’s worth.

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  20. By the way to Mike and all those people who’ve given me a ‘Like’ over the years, I appreciate it. I would have done the same for each of you but I don’t have a Facebook account. Never wanted one. Get enough monitoring just walking around town. Heck, just turning on the TV. Orwell would be surprised.

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  21. No problem, John. To be honest, I’m not sure if I have a facebook account; must check on that. Anyway, I’m sure that the “like” facility here isn’t linked to facebook. Just click the Like link.

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    • Very interesting, thanks for sharing that…
      So, I think this may still be fairly complicated, but thermogenic methane (that is, natural gas) was definitely a plausible source for methane hydrates. I think it’s also possible that hydrate would form here from microbial breakdown of organic matter beneath the frozen zone, or even from within the frozen zone… So this shouldn’t rule out hydrates, although thermogenic methane might have pointed strongly to hydrates. As far as I know, their data can’t separate older hydrate methane from “fresh” methane recently formed from the breakdown of non-frozen organic matter.

      Edit to add: And, for what it’s worth, it looks like one of the reviewers wasn’t even sold on the idea that you can definitively rule out thermogenic methane… This is tricky stuff.

      (By the way, their super-high carbon-14 samples are really weird! I’ve never seen a study have to conclude that “local anthropogenic nuclear contribution, e.g. from nuclear waste buried in the coastal permafrost, is the most likely explanation for these elevated radiocarbon levels.”)

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      • Thanks for the post, Will!

        LOL! Russians burying nuclear waste in coastal permafrost. Guess they thought that it’s safe and cold for the long-term up there, and oceans won’t rise for tens of thousands of years. Doh!

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  22. Hey, ALL.

    I’d like to share an amazing podcast on ‘Can Renewables Power the World?’, Episode 43 of The Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder, who also happens to do some energy study papers with RMI.org. I’m subscribing to his podcast for $5/mo and loving it (anyone listening for first gets a free mini-episode; see link below). Deep dives into a wide variety of areas in energy transition. This particular episode (especially 54 min to addresses an argument I had with Mike Roberts from New Zealand on energy returned on energy invested (EROEI or ERoEI); or energy return on investment (EROI). Chris Nelder interviewed Rembrandt Koppelaar who is a Research Associate at the Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on spatial supply and demand modelling of resource flows in city-regions within the disciplines known as urban metabolism and energy economics. More on Koppelaar and link to podcast below.

    http://xenetwork.org/ets/episodes/episode-42-can-renewables-power-world/

    (especially 00:54:00-01:07:00)

    Key takeaways:

    The world can be powered by renewable energy, or at least a very large part of it.
    You can get a long way with current technologies, and much more with future technology.
    Assuming better grid distribution, smoothing, 80% solar and wind with rest being made up by hydro, natural gas peakers, and storage show net energy ratios of 5-6 (not including future tech, power density improvements, cost reductions, efficiency improvements, etc.).
    outdated modeling suggests that some modelers were using data that was in some cases 18 years old – not taking into account cost reductions and efficiency gains in the past 5+ years of solar and wind.
    current measurements of EROI indicated solar and wind in the range of around 5-6 ratio, which is much better than all fossil fuels.
    Weißbach study (see below) load factors are for thermal plants 86% and nuclear 91%, but worldwide averages are 74%, for thermal 60%, and natural gas is 55%; IEA data in generation vs. capacity is very different because US is ‘gold standard’, but to get accurate data one needs to look at global averages.

    Show Notes (partial):
    Willem Middelkoop and Rembrandt Koppelaar’s Tesla Revolution blog

    Rembrandt Koppelaar, “The five key Game Changers that are Shaping the Energy Transition.” Olino.org (April 13, 2017)

    Koppelaar R.H.E.M. (2016), “Solar-PV energy payback and net energy: Meta-assessment of study quality, reproducibility, and results harmonization.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 72, 1241–1255. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2016.10.077

    Kingsmill Bond, “Energy return on investment: The dawn of the age of solar,” Trusted Source. (Mar 8, 2017)

    Ferroni, F., R. J. Hopkirk (2016), “Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation.” Energy Policy 94: 336–344. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.03.034

    C.A.S. Hall, S. Balogh, D.J.R. Murphy, “What is the minimum EROI that a sustainable society must have?” Energies, 2009 (2) (2009), pp. 25–47 http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/en20100025

    D.J.R. Murphy, C.A.S. Hall, “Energy return on investment, peak oil and the end of economic growth,” Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. Spec. Issue Ecol. Econ., 1219 (2011), pp. 52–72

    A.R. Brandt (2017), “How Does Energy Resource Depletion Affect Prosperity? Mathematics of a Minimum Energy Return on Investment (EROI), Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, 2:2. p

    Raugei et al. (2017), “Energy Return on Energy invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation: A comprehensive response.” Energy Policy 102: 337-384. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.12.042

    Raugei, Leccisi, E., (2016). “A comprehensive assessment of the energy performance of the full range of electricity generation technologies deployed in the United Kingdom.” Energy Policy 90: 46-59. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2015.12.011

    Weißbach , D. et al. “Energy intensities, EROIs (energy return on invested), and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants.” Energy 52: 210-221. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2013.01.029

    A.R. Brandt, et al. (2015). “Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for Forty Global Oilfields Using a Detailed Engineering-based Model of Oil Production”. Plos One. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144141

    A.R. Brandt et al. (2016). “Energy Intensity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tight Oil Production in the Bakken Formation”. Energy&Fuels 30(11):9613-9621. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.energyfuels.6b01907

    C.A.S. Hall, Lambert, J.G., Balogh, S.B. (2014) “EROI of different fuels and the implications for society”. Energy Policy 64: 114-152. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.05.049

    Chris Nelder, “What EROI tells us about ROI,” SmartPlanet. (Sep 2012)

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    • Hi Balan. That’s a long list of references and forgive me for not looking at them all in detail. I listened to the mini-episode of the Energy Transition, checked out Koppelaar’s web page and looked at the Charles Hall paper. I remain unconvinced about EROEI. As Hall’s paper mentioned, not all energy inputs may have been considered in analyses (e.g. the need for back-up power generation or storage for intermittent sources) but still the EROEI doesn’t look that flash. Even Koppelaar’s study last year shows mean net energy ratios below 10 for PV. We don’t know what a modern technological and industrial society needs for an EROEI but it hasn’t operated on EROEIs as low as 10 before (for an overall EOEI). However, a mean figure is not particularly helpful as it will vary enormously (even Koppelaar’s meta-study shows wide variation) depending on location and other factors. It’s no good having an EROEI of 30 in California (for example) but an EROEI of 4 in Russia. I don’t actually see such geographical data in studies.

      Another thing assumed in optimistic scenarios is that prices will continue to fall for ever. PV and wind do take resources, some of them rare resources. In time, both the energy used in and cost of extracting and refining resources will increase and change this rosy picture. Also rarely looked at is the environmental limits of diverting natural energy flows; I’ve only ever seen one piece of research which indicated that the limits of wind will kick in much sooner than anticipated. Hydro is by far still the largest proportion of renewables but the best sites are taken (and always at huge environmental cost).

      There is a tendency to equate renewables with sustainability (Nelder did this in the intro to this episode), which is false, though they are likely to be much better than fossil fuels, at some scale. Nelder also stated that our modern civilisation can be run on renewables without giving any proof (though earlier episodes may have given some info on that). Electricity is a small portion of our energy needs currently and renewables an even smaller proportion (variable across the globe). Whether the transition can happen quickly enough to make a difference is unknown. Those holding out for a renewables miracle will obviously take a different stance from me but optimism alone doesn’t get the job done.

      CO2 continues to rise apace, though this year’s rise may compensate a little for last years big spike. Other GHGs also don’t seem to have slowed their growth as yet. Until we see a flattening of those levels, there can’t be any justifiable optimism (IMO) and, even if we do, we know there is more warming to come. 2C is certain to be breached (IMO) but 2.5C would be better than 3C or 4C.

      A scary outcome of you and other renewable optimists being right is that civilisation continues to degrade our environment and continues to drive the sixth extinction event, even if the temperature anomaly does peak at some stage.

      Like

  23. Hi Will, Balan, Mike and SJ. Nice to ‘hear’ from you all once again. The gang’s all here. :) My thought on all of your thoughts on energy is that there is and will continue to be plenty oil still to be recovered to power civilization for many many decades to come, if not longer. I know there’s a push to get more energy faster, cheaper, easier and cleaner, but as long as the cheapest energy (our first priority) is just sitting there under our feet, my guess is that will continue to be our first go to.

    Which means it might be a better idea to figure out how to find, recover, refine and use oil more cleanly. That will probably be cheaper and save more jobs in the long run. Save the more exotic and expensive ideas for some future generation when we’re not staring economic collapse in the face. What do you think?

    Like

    • Hi John. Well, yes, that might seem to be the pragmatic option. However, burning fossil fuels can’t be done without releasing CO2, and always at the same rate for a given rate of burning. The only thing that can (hypothetically) be done is to capture the emissions and then store them. Unfortunately, that would be pretty tough for moving infrastructure, like vehicles, particularly as you end up with pretty much 3 times the weight of CO2 for the weight of carbon burned. You also have to burn more for the same return, as the process of capturing and storing the CO2 takes energy.

      So, yes, in principle, it would be good to acknowledge reality and try to deal with it but the only “solution” I can see there is to assume that the world will get hotter, extreme events will become more common and/or more extreme, sea level will rise metres and oceans will become more acidic (and warmer) then figure out responses to those things.

      But the world is not even acknowledging the problem right now (yes, they “agree” there is a problem but actions don’t seem to follow the words).

      Like

  24. By the way Mike, I tried to ‘Like’ your post but I got some WordPress thing saying I have to fill out an affidavit, have it notarized, give them my yearly annual income statement, three phone numbers, and an iris scan before they’ll let me Like something.

    So I’ll just say, I like all of your posts! Usually do. Wishing you all well.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Guys, a question. We’ve been hearing a lot these days about the possibility that we’re all actually living in a sophisticated computer simulation. Now some are saying they have proof, at least as durable as the theory of cosmic inflation (Big Bang),

    Study reveals substantial evidence of holographic universe
    https://phys.org/news/2017-01-reveals-substantial-evidence-holographic-universe.html

    Anyone have any thoughts about the potential implications?

    Like

    • John, that would be irrelevant. I can’t see any way a simulation could obtain proof that it is in a simulation. If “evidence” is obtained, how could a simulation be sure that the evidence isn’t simulated, or even be sure of anything?

      I think we can safely discount it – sounds like it’s an excuse to ignore the real issues we will have to deal with.

      Like

    • “Lack of imagination”? No. Try deeply corrupt political system that is awash in corporate dollars from fossil fuel industry.

      Like

    • I guess the central point is fair, though I don’t want to endorse everything in that post (particularly the “science has grossly underestimated climate change” stuff). Although I’m not sure it’s even a failure to imagine the high-end risks as much as a failure to respect the median risk enough to place it before short-term economic goals and international score-keeping.

      Like

      • The idea that, under Paris, we would hit 4C was new to me. It’s not clear to me if Spratt means that to happen by 2100, or whether he’s discussing ECS or ESS when he talks about sensitivity.

        Like

    • Well, it’s one specific area and I don’t know how it would compare. And to be honest, I’m having trouble understanding the impact of the changes they’re modeling. But it’s certainly an eyebrow-raiser…

      Like

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