It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The top emitters and our quandary

ABC of Australia has provided a cute embeddable widget (*) to help visualize the emissions problem:

We see that these 15 "contribute" (if that's the right word. "dyscontribute"?) well over half of ongoing emissions.

Also, some interesting observations by Ken Caldeira cited by Joe Romm, which I will steal because they are worth considering:

There is some noise around the idea that it useful to think about some amount of “allowable CO2 emissions budget” that would keep the world under 2 C of global warming.
This concept is dangerous for two reasons:
1. There are no such things as an “allowable CO2 emissions.” There are only “damaging CO2 emissions” or “dangerous CO2 emissions.” Every CO2 emission causes additional damage and creates additional risk. Causing additional damage and creating additional risk with our CO2 emissions should not be allowed.
2. If you look at how our politicians operate, if you tell them you have a budget of XYZ, they will spend XYZ. Politicians will reason: “If we’re not over budget, what’s to stop us to spending? Let the guys down the road deal with it when the budget has been exceeded.” The CO2 emissions budget framing is a recipe for delaying concrete action now.
We should be framing the issue around what we need to do today: stop building things with tailpipes and smokestacks and start retiring the things we have already built that do have tailpipes and smokestacks. Stop using the sky as a waste dump for our CO2 emission.
These are things that we can hold politicians accountable to today. Trying to hold politicians to a budget that will be reached 30 years in the future is a recipe for disaster.
If our current crop of politicians is any indication, it is unreasonable to expect politicians to feel constrained by something that might happens 30 years from now, long after they have left office.
The key point is that every CO2 emission is bad; the budget for “allowable CO2 emissions” should be zero.
When I emit CO2, I am transgressing against nature and future generations. It is not something allowed; it is a violation.
As long as we are still building CO2-emitting devices, the politicians are failing, and we must hold them accountable for their failure today, not 30 years into the future.
So, in short, we have two problems. First, all of this emission is fundamentally illegitimate. Second, there is no global sovereignty to allocate the pain of slowing down, so in negotiations each nation jockeys for position to minimize its own commitment.So even in the unlikely event of successful negotiations, they will be inadequate.

The fact that no power speaks for the earth as a whole is systematically killing the earth.

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(*) Actually, the widget is sort of gratuitous, and they'll probably take it down someday anyway, so here are the three views for later reference if the link breaks:

9 comments:

Tom said...

From 3000 Quads (http://3000quads.com/2015/02/21/our-global-energy-future/):

"I have just finished analyzing EIA numbers for the 5 biggest consumers of energy, China, the U.S., Russia, India and Japan. During this analysis I looked at their plans to increase energy production from nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar.

These countries have published plans for future energy infrastructure. Taken at their word, they will build energy plants that are non-emissive (including nuclear). Using heroic assumptions (that everything that is planned will be built, something that has never happened), the 5 top energy consuming countries will get 97.35 quads from non-emissive sources out of a total of 404.8 quads they will be consuming. Which leaves three-quarters of their energy coming from fossil fuels. In the best case scenario, a lot of that will come from natural gas. In the worst case scenario, most of it comes from coal.

Those who are hoping that green energy takes over need to realize that this is what is planned for construction. The only deus ex machina available would be for unplanned (that is, residential) solar rooftops to grow at a very high rate. We know how many nuclear power plants and dams are going to be built. And make no mistake, these plans are ambitious–China’s nuclear power program and hydroelectric construction are making government planners and environmentalists very nervous. India is reacting to their energy issues by trying to make it easier–to dig coal out of Indian ground. It is difficult to imagine the USA finding the political will to increase either nuclear or hydropower construction.

All of the attention and announced new construction will have the effect of maintaining the status quo regarding green energy as a percentage of the total. Sadly, the total will grow rapidly.

The top 5 nations will produce 61% of all human fossil fuel emissions in 2040. The second 5 will only produce 10%. It is only the top 5 who can move the needle on the balance of their energy portfolios to make a difference.

At the present it is explicitly clear that they have no plans to do so."

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks for the constructive, if grim, comment, Tom. (Really.)

Where did you get the info about these plans?

Tom said...

The DOE's Energy Information Administration has an interactive table showing a variety of figures through 2040. It's a little hard to find--I will put a link in here later.

Tom said...

Here it is. It's a hugely useful table suitable for many different things.

http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=IEO2013&subject=0-IEO2013&table=1-IEO2013&region=0-0&cases=Reference-d041117

I will add my note of gloom here. My blog 3000 Quads is based on the premise that the DOE's EIA underestimates future energy consumption in the developing world by half. That is to say, they predict the developing world's future energy consumption to grow by 2.4% per year. My own calculations show a growth rate of 4.19% per year in the developing world.

We used 523 quads in 2010 world wide. My calculations show energy consumption at 3,000 quads by 2075.

The EIA didn't do an International Energy Outlook last year and this year's version has been delayed until October.

Hopefully we will heave a huge sigh of relief when their new numbers show I am wrong.

Peter Torbay said...

POST: "There are no such things as an “allowable CO2 emissions.”"

Well, then you better stop breathing right now, son, and help "Save the Earth™".

"Those who are hoping that green energy takes over need to realize that ..." there is no such thing as 'green energy'. The power for electric cars comes from a highly inefficient central electric grid, that grain fuels are net energy consumers and deprive humans of essential food grains, that solar is a net energy consumer from a life-cycle analysis (except for individual solar water heating and cooking which will see near zero adoption in the US), that wind power, especially offshore, from a life-cycle analysis is a fool's errand wasting precious public funds, and that the burgeoning US military, if it adopted 'green energy', would burn the entire grain supply of the United States every year, long before the year was up.

Greens are good at linear or parabolic projections, fantasy planning for science fiction scenarios without any proof those scenarios will be effective ... none ..., but for all their 'based on hard science' chatter, seem incapable of addressing real engineering life cycle cost analysis, almost as though, you know, when they penciled out how much fossil power would be required to recharge all those electric cars every night, they realized, they will actually have to burn MORE fossil fuel!
They realized they would have to completely rebuilt the electric backbone, or risk rolling blackouts across the entire country, and wars over who gets to recharge.

Which was the whole point, and the belly laugh of 'Green Technology', they're just creating a helplessly inefficient and broken world power grid, totally reliant on massive fossil fuel extraction, creating an enormous tax-and-spend profit center.

Good job, men! Now don't you have a tree to hug?

Michael Tobis said...

Re PT, (Yawn) I guess I'd better construct a borehole.

Michael Tobis said...

Meanwhile PDNFTT

Mal Adapted said...

MT: "Meanwhile PDNFTT"

Wow. PT's was as hate-spewing an AGW-denier comment as I've at init. Have you been moderating many out?

Mmm, soup!

Michael Tobis said...

That one was a no-brainer to moderate out, but moderating is thankless work on the edge cases.

I found on P3 that a borehole helps, i.e., a place to put non-constructive comments. That way, people can see what I'm moderating out, and if they like, argue that I've been inappropriate.

Of course some will not take my word for it that some things fall into the spam filter and I don't look at all of those. Moderating is by nature an imperfect process.