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On Nuclear Energy and My Greenpeace Conundrum

I don't think it is sincere or malicious. Long before climate change became a big issue, environmental groups and others opposed nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy. Many of their supporters feel strongly about these issues. I believe their concerns are worth taking seriously. Nuclear power is expensive, there are real risks, including proliferation, waste disposal remains a challenge. Govt subsidies for nukes in the US are massive. 

My belief is that despite all that, given the alternatives, nuclear must be part of a climate solution.

June 4, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy and My Greenpeace Conundrum

Climate activists can certainly help to make nuclear power cheaper--by accepting or even promoting it as a low-carbon energy source.

Safer, maybe not literally--I probably should have written that environmentalist could help explain the tradeoffs around all energy sources and thereby ease people's worries about nuclear safety, such as they are. 

Right now the message from groups like Greenpeace is:

Solar and wind = good


It's not nearly as simple as that.

June 4, 2013    View Comment    

On Direct air capture of CO2 is becoming a business, for better or worse

Bill, you're right, I think, almost everyone in the air capture industry says it would be cheaper to extract CO2 from coal or natural gas plants where concentrations are much higher. (About 12% for coal, 4% for natural gas.) A handful, notably Peter Eisenberger, think air capture can be done at no higher cost, for reasons not going into here.

The value of direct air capture of CO2 is that it can offset dispersed emissions from cars, trucks, planes, ships, small factories etc. Air capture plants can also be located anywhere, so they can run on cheap or close-to-free natural gas (stranded gas) or solar in the desert, and because they can be located anywhere, they can become a supply of CO2 if it is needed for EOR that's some distance from fossil fuel plants.

Make sense?

It also turns out that air capture could be a lower cost way of reducing CO2 than some of the more expensive forms of renewable energy.

March 12, 2012    View Comment    

On Suck It Up: A book about climate change, geoengineering and air capture of CO2

David, first, thanks for buying the book and giving it such a careful and thoughtful read.

The estimate that we'd have to remove 8 gigatons of CO2 to reduce atmospheric concentrations by 1 ppm was a rough estimate. You're right that it doesn't take into account CO2 absorbed by the ocean; if we were to suck CO2 out of the air, the ocean would release some CO2 back into the air to put things back in equilibrium. (I'm not a scientist or science writer, as you may have figured out when you read the book.) When I ran the number by climate scientists, they essentially told me the 8 gigaton estimate was close enough but low. No one suggested that it was 40% too low but again, this is out of my area of expertise.

What I do understand is that the scale of the climate problem is not well understood. I hope that comes across in the book.

The economics are a bit more complicated. If we can find a use for CO2 in the short term (enhanced oil recovery, feeding algae), the costs of pulling it out of the air would be partly or entirely offset by the value generated by the CO2. The big long term idea which I didn't get into in any detail because it is so speculative is that CO2 could be captured from the air, and combined with hydrogen that has been separated from water to make transportation fuels. If this was powered by renewable energy, we'd have a low-carbon closed cycle way of making fuels.

Given how little progress we've made so far with mitigation--and thank you for the clip, which helps explains why--it seems to me that new approaches like this deserve consideration.

March 3, 2012    View Comment    

On Peter Gleick, climate hero?

Thanks for your comments, and sorry to be slow in responding.

Just to be clear--I do NOT think Peter Gleick is in anyway a climate hero.

I've also lost all confidence in DeSmogBlog. They are as partisan and unmoved by the facts as Heartland, sad to say.

Having said that, I'm ready to  move onto to other topics...unless there is significant news here.


February 28, 2012    View Comment    

On The toxic debate over climate science

Thanks for your comment, David, we agree.

My basic point is...

1. Heartland is wrong to distort and mislead people on climate science. They should be ashamed.

2. Heartland is, of course, entitled to its own opinion on policy.

3. Whatever Heartland's sins, it deserves to be treated fairly by journalists and critics. In this case, that means reasoning from the evidence and not quoting from a document that is now looks very much like a fake. See this for the latest on the fakery

There's also been a fair bit of misreporting around the issues of how much fossil fuel money is behind Heartland (very little, as far as we know) and whether the Koch Foundation is behind its climate work (the evidence indicates that it is not.)

Again, none of this contradicts (1) above.

February 18, 2012    View Comment    

On The toxic debate over climate science

I've got to disagree with both of your comments when it comes to "means," although we share the same desire when it comes to "ends." Yes, there's an irony in Heartland of all people protesting leaked emails.

But the climate activists who rushed to publish and comment Heartland documents without checking on their accuracy also deserve criticism. Particularly when it now appears very likely that one of the documents was a fake.

Those of us who believe in the scientific consensus about climate change should hold ourselves to high standards when participating in this debate--even if the skeptics do not.

February 17, 2012    View Comment    

On Which Side Of The Solar Trade Wars Are You On?

I hadn't thought of it that way but you're right, Ed.

We're subsidizing our solar industry and, potentially, ready to complain that China is doing the same.


January 9, 2012    View Comment    

On Climate, Insurance & the Next Financial Meltdown

That's a great point, Willem, but the US is not as advanced or experienced in terms of preparing for flooding. That's one reason why private companies no longer write flood insurance. But you are right that good public policy would at least take into account worse-case scenarios.

January 8, 2012    View Comment    

On Why I’m (Still) An Optimist

Yes, I do, except for those like #1 and #3 and #13 which are tautologies or platitudes. "A strong military is essential." Well, sure, but how do we define strong?

Depending on definitions, I disagree with the following:

2. Pro domestic employment is indispensable -- If that means we should erect trade barriers, I disagree.

4. Special interests must be eliminated - - I strongly disagree on free speech grounds. All interests should be heard. The very term special interests is meaningless. As opposed to what?

5. Gun ownership is sacred -- I disagree. I missed that in the bible.

6. Government must be downsized -- I agree. Let's make sure we include the military. Oops, I forgot about #3.

7. The national biudget must be balanced -- I disagree. Every govt in the world runs debts.

9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal -- That's nuts. Republicans and Democrats have voted for deficit spending (i.e., stimulus plans) for years.

10. REducing personal income taxes is a must -- Not until we get debt levels down

11. Same as #10

12. I agree. Who wouldn't? But I don't think Tea Partiers support public financing of campaigns which would make that easier. Neither do I.

13. I strong agree. That's why I support abortion rights and gay marriage.






January 3, 2012    View Comment    

On Why I’m (Still) An Optimist

Ed, I won't get into the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street here but on the issue of Romney, Gingrich, climate and weather...

I'm not aware of any substantive reason why Romney and Gingrich backed away from their support for climate regulation,as recently as 2008. Since then, there's been more, not less, science supporting global warming. More business support for regulation. Yes, I am speculating about the fact that they have changed their views for political reasons, ie, to pander to the know-nothing types, but I have yet to hear an alternative explanation.

Re climate and weather, while I believe it's probably a mistaken to try to tie any single weather event to the impact of climate change, many scientists believe that the increases in the number of extreme weather events is a result of climate change. This is from the 2007 IPCC report and I view the IPCC as conservative in its approach to the issue.

Since 1950, the number of heat waves has increased and widespread increases have occurred in the numbers of warm nights. The extent of regions affected by droughts has also increased as precipitation over land has marginally decreased while evaporation has increased due to warmer conditions. Generally, numbers of heavy daily precipitation events that lead to flooding have increased, but not everywhere. Tropical storm and hurricane frequencies vary considerably from year to year, but evidence suggests substantial increases in intensity and duration since the 1970s.In the extratropics, variations in tracks and intensity of storms reflect variations in major features of the atmospheric circulation, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation.

I don't claim to be an expert on the science, but I have spent time with climate scientists at NCAR and elsewhere and I have been impressed with their dedication and respect for the evidence. They are deeply concerned about the way the debate in the US is stuck, and we all should be too.

January 2, 2012    View Comment    

On It's Carbon Tax Time!

First, a carbon tax is worth having if it reduces carbon. Doesn't have to eliminate it, at least not right away and probably we will never get to that point.

Second, it depends on how you define "viable and economical." Wind is viable and economical. So is natural gas, which has a lower carbon footprint than coal. Nuclear is expensive but could get cheaper. Same with solar.

A carbon tax would get us moving in the right direction. Which is about the best we can hope for right now.


November 13, 2011    View Comment