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On Myth #1: Renewable energy can generate all the world’s energy needs

If your assumptions and math are correct (and I have no reason to think otherwise, based on a first reading), then how does the 5X greater land requirement of renewables vs. nuclear power prove that "Renewable energy can generate all the world's energy needs" is a "myth"?
January 8, 2010    View Comment    

On Chinese Delegate Su Wei Pushes Back on EU Comparisons

Yes, the US pledge stinks.  No argument there.  It's also unfortunate that China is trying to sell their own "commitment", which amounts to an increase in CO2 emissions, as a cut:

So far, I've yet to see anything impressive from the major emitters.

December 8, 2009    View Comment    

On China emissions to peak in 2030?

The calculation is pretty straightforward, and it's roughly 915 billion metric tons of CO2 remaining, of which we're using up about 30/year via energy consumption.  (See the end of my post here for the derivation:

And I agree 100% on the need to pursue both greater energy efficiency and lower carbon intensity in parallel. It's an area calculation--total energy use is X, energy intensity (C/energy unit) is Y, so we're staring at X*Y. Reducing one is good, reducing both is vastly better.

August 18, 2009    View Comment    

On China emissions to peak in 2030?

I did some digging on this 80x50 number issue recently, and wrote it up on my site (, with more than a little help from David Archer's book The Long Thaw.  I think it's a flawed metric, as it focuses too much on getting under the bar as a goal, and not on what really matters, which is the total amount of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere.  Also, the way we count things is rather quirky, to say the least.  Archer points out that by limiting our horizon to the year 2100, we're giving ourselves a free pass on 40% of the warming and emissions, because that's the percentage of the warming that will still happen after that date.
August 17, 2009    View Comment    

On Leaked memo: Big Oil manufacturing ‘Energy Citizen’ rallies to oppose clean energy reform.

Anyone surprised by this news simply hasn't been paying attention or is hopelessly naive.  Those with a financial interest in clinging to business as usual will fight to do so, using every tool available that has a cost less than the proposed change.  It's as simple and brutal as economics gets.
August 17, 2009    View Comment    

On GM’s 230MPG claim

Excuse me, but yes, I was serious.  Would an energy-based measurement, as opposed to one based on units of liquid fuel, be better?  Probably, assuming we can come up with a metric that takes into account the environmental and other impacts of the wildly varying sources we use for electricity, including that provided to consumers, like me, who voluntarily pay extra to get 100% renewable electricity. And if we don't weight the energy consumption by impacts, then we're just wasting our time.

I'm one of the biggest critics of GM you can find, but I don't think you can blame them for playing the marketing game by the established rules, especially when there is no other generally accepted set of rules, as you point out.

August 12, 2009    View Comment    

On Denialist Backlash vs Rudy Baum


Sadly, the kind of common sense you appeal to in those who don't immerse themselves in this material, won't be enough. All the deniers have to do is keep throwing the same garbage against the same wall over and over, knowing that a slightly different group of mainstream consumers and voters will see it each time, and cumulative effect of those people being exposed to the same lies repeatedly will work in their (the deniers') favor.

Moving from a state of ignorance on any topic to being educated enough to judge news and arguments with some sophistication is essentially a building process. People have to build up their understanding over time (which many have far too little of to devote to any new (to them) pursuit) and actually work at it. This is especially true in the case of something as complex and sometimes counter intuitive as climate issues. All the deniers have to do is play bull in the china shop and trigger a little havoc to disrupt that learning process. The payoff is Congress members flooded with calls from constituents worried about the cost of change "for no reason" because "global warming is a hoax" (as Senator Inhofe would have us think).

And don't get me started on the role the media plays in treating deniers as if they have a valid point. As the late, great Senator from NY, Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, "You're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

July 30, 2009    View Comment    

On End Times Thinking and the Locavore Fallacy

I've been making much the same point about the whole "once oil gets really expensive we won't do X any more" arguments for years.  In almost every case they rely on a glaring lack of economic analysis, like the one you hint at about the additional cost to ship tomatoes.  Even more basic is how little the doomers recognize the flexibility of modern economies. This leads them to make some stunningly bad linear and simplistic assumptions.

No one has to convince me that we're in for some gigantic challenges and no small amount of human pain, thanks to both peak oil and climate chaos. I've been researching and writing about these topics for over five years. If there's one critical lesson I've learned it's that there's a huge gap between, "Wake up people--we've got some very serious problems here", and "We're all gonna die in a cave in three years!!!"

July 29, 2009    View Comment    

On The Suppressed, Absent and/or Faulty Logic of Anthropogenic Global Warming

Ed: I honestly don't know where to start.  Are you sincerely asking questions, and you have no way to find out these answers on your own via RealClimate or Archer's book, The Long Thaw (both of which I very highly recommend)?  I'm not even sure where you stand on these issues.  Do GHG cause global warming?  If so, how much warming is dangerous?  And how much CO2 can we emit before reaching that limit?  And what does that imply about how quickly we need to reduce emissions?  If you want answers to all these questions (and more!), I suggest you spend some time with the sources I mentioned above or Grist's fairly detailed treatment of many of these issues (
July 27, 2009    View Comment    

On The Suppressed, Absent and/or Faulty Logic of Anthropogenic Global Warming

"Therefore, logically, stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of these GHGs would require a reduction of emissions rates to or below the emissions rates at which the atmospheric concentrations began to increase. That would require global reductions of approximately 99.95% from current global emissions rates."

No. I happened to read the section in David Archer's book The Long Thaw today in which he addresses exactly this point (page 164). Because about half of our CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans and plants, we could freeze the CO2 level of the atmosphere (i.e. stabilize it) by cutting emissions in half. (We currently emit about 30 Gtons/year and 15 Gtons/years are removed. Reduce emissions to 15 Gtons/year and the amount absorbed offsets it exactly.)

July 27, 2009    View Comment    

On Psychology of denial

I would agree on the value of such assessments if the only thing anyone wanted to do was use it in as ham-fisted a way as you suggested.  Using it instead to understand the opposition and then find more productive ways to reach them would be much more useful.

And if we're stupid enough to judge climate science by the success rate of weather predictions(!?) or the morons who helped create the financial meltdown, then call in the dogs, put out the fire, the party's over.

As for humility--yes, that's definitely in order. I was a professional programmer for a long time, and I have the battle scars to show how spectacularly systems can fail due to arrogant designers and programmers. But how much evidence do we need before we say, "OK, we might be off by +/-10%, but the probability of Bad Stuff Happening for this particular reason (CO2 emissions) is so high we have to take action, because the expected value of being wrong is so much less than the expected value of being right and not taking action"?

July 21, 2009    View Comment    

On Buy, Bye, Gaia, hate to sea you go

I recently wrote about the preliminary evidence that something odd is happening to atmospheric levels of CO2 and methane, and the question of 2C being the magic number for warming. The CO2 and CH4 readings are not proof that we've triggered the permafrost bomb, but it is very unnerving, to say the least.

Methane checkpoint

CO2 checkpoint

Climate chaos, indeed

Two degrees of separation

July 7, 2009    View Comment