Keeling Curve

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The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

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Climate Change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts #auspol 

Climate change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts

Not since the Reagan era cold war with Russia has apocalyptic awareness been so forefront in the public’s mind. 

Disturbing incidents ranging from nuclear football Facebook selfies to alarming North Korean military activity now accrue weekly. 

Sometimes hourly. 

What can one do besides scroll through Twitter before bedtime and let the news populate our nightmares?
The distractions and details are addictive: political murders via improv and a spray bottle, daily revelations of Russian infiltration in US elections and government, and today the president is yelling at Sweden. 

Tomorrow it might be Ireland. 

Who knows. 

We watch the global breakup like helpless children realizing that mom and dad are really getting a divorce.

 Right now, the sitting US president is not even welcome in the British Parliament, but he regularly tweets flattering sentiments to Russia. 

But there is a larger story that needs telling–and action.

Lost in the noise was the recent breakage of a mile-long stretch of West Antarctica, due to warmer ocean water.

 It was part of one of the largest glaciers within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which scientists predict will collapse in the next 100 years. 

NASA caught the images of the event earlier in the week, but the story broke just as Scott Pruitt was confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency–making it seem as if the Earth did the planetary version of a spit take at the news. 

Timing aside, it was a big deal.


In the distraction of every new development, tweet, or outrage, it’s hard to get a bird’s eye view of what the hell is going on in the literal world.

 Luckily, Laurie Penny of The Baffler has done that for us, in a brilliant new article that should be required reading for the human race: The Slow Confiscation of Everything: How to think about climate apocalypse. 

Referencing the daily outrages, legislative battles, and civil division, she writes:
“Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.”
In the piece, she eloquently demonstrates that it is no longer the failure of diplomatic relations that is likely to kill us. 

It’s the man-made weapon that’s already been unleashed in global warming. 

That missile has already been launched. 

The point becomes clear: climate change is no longer an environmental issue. 

It’s a human rights issue–the right to live, and the right to have our children’s children live, too. 

It is not liberal alarmist drama. 

It’s about life as we know it, and we need to adjust accordingly, or we will soon not recognize it at all.
“Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.”
Echoing the storyline of her outstanding dystopian novel, Everything Belongs to the Future, she outlines where we are, how we got here, and shows us the (decreasing) options before us. 

Importantly, government policy choices are part of what determines which path the human race is really on. 

The voice of the people and their ability to understand this fatally overlooked reality–and then do something about it, is the ray of hope here. 

But it’s an attitude adjustment that needs to happen soon. 

We’re looking at incremental, but preventable, human extinction. 

We’re all drafted for this war, and really, we’re all ultimately on the same side. 

The challenge is, can we stop the bleeding in time?
“It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses. 

If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live.”
A heat-wave hit Oklahoma, sending temperatures into the high 90s. 

Norman, Oklahoma was 99 degrees F (37 C) on February 11. 

From ThinkProgress: Many people may welcome a temperate day in February, but warm weather in normally cold months disrupts ecosystems. Trees may bloom after an unseasonably balmy spell — and then suffer frost damage when cold […]

Press link for more: Boing boing.net

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Carbon Tax a Market Based solution for #ClimateChange #auspol 

This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan
Purist objections scuttled Washington State’s market-friendly carbon tax plan in November. 

Let’s not let that happen at the national level.

By Charles Komanoff


Progressives Need to Get Over Themselves and Support This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan

Carbon-tax haters can relax. 

The proposal for a national carbon tax released on February 8 by high-level Republicans, including über-GOP consigliere James Baker, isn’t going anywhere. 

Financially and ideologically, the American right is wedded to carbon fuels. 

Trumpism runs on and reeks of them. 

Predictably, not a single Republican in Congress, and no one in the White House, has uttered a single positive word about the new carbon-tax plan.
Nevertheless, the proposal’s intended audience may not be Beltway Republicans but rather those ordinary Americans, majorities in both parties, who say they want action on climate, and who therefore might yet figure in the political equation over climate policy. 

That group includes progressives. 

We should pay attention: Carbon taxes matter.
Our long-building climate crisis is already materializing as drowned coasts, punishing droughts, vanishing glaciers—and political upheaval. 

At its root is a century-old lie: market prices for gasoline and other fossil fuels that do not factor in the damage from burning them.

A clean-energy revolution is at last underway, with wind power, solar electricity, and energy efficiency becoming not only cheaper by the day but also easier to deploy. 

Still, the clean-energy transition will be slowed until prices of coal, oil, and gas reflect their true environmental costs. 

A carbon tax could do that, if designed properly.
How carbon taxes work is simple enough, at least in theory.

 Fuel use is infinitely varied and intricately woven into society in ways that regulations such as auto-mileage standards can’t fully reach. 

Clear price signals, on the other hand, can be a nearly magic wand to help billions of invisible hands rapidly reduce and replace fossil fuels.


But with a carbon tax come difficult choices about the vast revenue it will generate. 

Carbon taxing had a test run at the ballot box last November in the state of Washington, and it ended badly.
Progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes, the policy tool with the best chance of catching fire globally.

On November 8, voters in the Evergreen State rejected by a nearly 3-to-2 margin what would have been the nation’s first statewide carbon tax.

 A win for “Initiative 732” would have given the United States a carbon-tax beachhead, like Canada’s British Columbia, which has had a small but successful carbon tax since 2008.
Remarkably, the decisive factor in defeating I-732 may not have been money from Big Carbon or even popular aversion to higher taxes, since the initiative was tailored to keep Washingtonians’ tax burden unchanged. 

What doomed I-732 was a fissure within the climate movement, with centrist economists and other policy wonks in favor of the initiative and progressive greens opposed.
Stated briefly, climate activists in Washington split over opposing answers to two key questions: 

What are carbon taxes for, and who gets to design them?
Carbon taxes can cut emissions in two ways.

 As noted above, they raise the price of carbon fuels, thereby worsening their competitive position vis-à-vis cleaner fuels. 

In addition, the tax revenues raised by a carbon tax can be invested in clean-energy infrastructure such as public transit and community solar.
The first path—the “price pull” of boosting market prices of carbon fuels—is what dazzles economists. 

The second route—the “revenue push” of investing in green infrastructure—appeals to many ordinary folks, especially on the left. 

Some progressives actively distrust policies that lean hard on price signals, partly for fear that workers in dirty industries will be penalized as investment migrates to cleaner alternatives.
The stakes are higher now than ever.

For decades, reactionary forces in the United States have been able to block seemingly every new public endeavor by labeling it “tax and spend.”

 The Washington State carbon-tax proponents believed they had an antidote:

 Don’t allow the government to spend the revenues from the carbon tax; rather, use those revenues to reduce other taxes. 

The political assumption seemed to be that going “revenue neutral,” though it might frustrate the left—bye-bye, public investment—could placate the right or at least capture the center. 

And so Carbon WA, as the advocates of I-732 called themselves, fashioned its ballot initiative around cuts to the state’s regressive sales tax.
Progressive greens recoiled. 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a state umbrella group of environmental-justice organizations and mainstream allies, blasted I-732 for starving green jobs and ignoring front-line communities. 

So did nationally prominent progressive leaders like Naomi Klein and Van Jones. 

The measure’s electoral chances, which were never good, could not withstand this split. 

On Election Day, as Hillary Clinton was besting Trump in Washington State by half-a-million votes, the carbon tax was rejected, 59 percent to 41 percent.
But progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes are the only policy tool that, by slashing demand in a rapid, predictable way, divests our economy from fossil fuels and enables governments, business, and consumers to make investments in the transition to clean energy. 

Carbon taxes also have the best chance of catching fire globally.

The carbon tax James Baker brought to the Trump White House on February 8 on behalf of the new Climate Leadership Council has a lot in common with I-732: 

The Council’s proposal is also avowedly revenue neutral.

 But rather than lowering an existing tax, it relies on a so-called tax-and-dividend model: 

As the state of Alaska does with oil revenues, revenues from the Council’s national carbon tax would be returned equally to all American households in quarterly “dividends” digitally deposited in Social Security accounts. 

The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Earmarking all of the revenue to these dividends creates the political will to raise the tax every year, since the dividends rise in tandem with the tax rate. 

Ramping up the tax by $5 a year would shrink the use of carbon fuels so drastically that, by my calculations, US carbon emissions in 2030 would be 40 percent less than they were in 2005 (a standard baseline year).
Government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance James Baker’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

Yet this progress comes with a catch. 

The council would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and would outright repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from electricity generation. 

It would also immunize fossil-fuel companies from lawsuits for damages done by their products—lawsuits such as those bound to arise from the revelations that ExxonMobil and other companies knew for decades about the climate damages their products cause, and lied about it.
But government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance the council’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

 After all, well over 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s targeted reductions for 2030 were already achieved by the end of 2016. 

Thus trading away the Clean Power Plan for a tax that could scour fossil fuels from the entire economy is like swapping an aging ballplayer for the next superstar.
Of course, some people will not see it that way, particularly traditional green groups that helped write the laws and regulations that cleaned up the nation’s air and water.

 Some will regard the council’s trade as a ploy to undo the EPA’s authority to protect not just climate—where it may be largely ineffectual anyway—but public health.
With Republicans tightly lashed to climate denial, the value of Baker’s carbon-tax proposal may be less as a gateway to legislation and more as a spur for progressives and other citizens to take a clear look at carbon pricing.

Will progressives trust the verdict of economists that a revenue-neutral carbon tax can drive the energy transition so long as the tax level is high enough? 

Or do we support carbon taxes only if the revenues are invested in the clean-energy transition? 

If so, how do we craft a spending program that reconciles the claims of competing interests? 

And what is our blueprint for building political power to enact such a carbon tax, when “tax” remains a dirty word in national politics?


Clear majorities of Americans want climate action.

 Remarkably, some polls have even found that majorities of Americans support carbon taxes like the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal. 

With the Democrats’ national defeats last November, the failure of climate activists to unite on the Washington state referendum is looking like an unforced error of cruel proportions. 

We can’t afford to repeat that mistake at the national level.

Press link for more: The Nation.com

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Carbon Capture & Storage is just too expensive #auspol #insiders 

The World Coal Institute noted that in 2003 the high cost of carbon capture and storage (estimates of US$ 150-220 per tonne of carbon, $40-60/t CO2 – 3.5 to 5.5 c/kWh relative to coal burned at 35% thermal efficiency) made the option uneconomic. 


Coal isn’t ever clean! 

But a lot of work is being done to improve the economic viability of it, and the US Dept of Energy (DOE) was funding R&D with a view to reducing the cost of carbon sequestered to US$ 10/tC (equivalent to 0.25 c/kWh) or less by 2008, and by 2012 to reduce the cost of carbon capture and sequestration to a 10% increment on electricity generation costs. 

These targets now seem very unrealistic.

A 2000 US study put the cost of CO2 capture for IGCC plants at 1.7 c/kWh, with an energy penalty 14.6% and a cost of avoided CO2 of $26/t ($96/t C). 

By 2010 this was expected to improve to 1.0 c/kWh, 9% energy penalty and avoided CO2 cost of $18/t ($66/t C), but these numbers now seem unduly optimistic.

Figures from IPCC Mitigation working group in 2005 for IGCC put capture and sequestration cost at 1.0-3.2 c/kWh, thus increasing electricity cost for IGCC by 21-78% to 5.5 to 9.1 c/kWh. 

The energy penalty in that was 14-25% and the mitigation cost $14-53/t CO2 ($51-200/tC) avoided. 

These figures included up to $5 per tonne CO2 for transport and up to $8.30 /t CO2 for geological sequestration.

In 2009 the OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated for CCS $40-90/t CO2 but foresees $35-60/t by 2030, and McKinsey & Company estimated €60-90/t reducing to €30-45/t after 2030.

ExxonMobil is proposing that, where amine scrubbing is employed, the whole power plant exhaust is directed to a carbonate fuel cell which will generate over 20% more power overall, instead of costing 10% of the power due to diversion of steam. The CO2 still needs to be disposed of.
In Australia the $240 million Callide Oxyfuel project in Queensland aims to demonstrate oxyfuel capture technology retrofitted to a 30 MW unit of an existing coal-fired power plant and to research how it might be applied to new power stations.
 The plant was commissioned in 2012 and was to run for an extended test period until November 2014.

 By mid-2013 the project had demonstrated CO2 capture rates from the oxyfuel flue gas stream to the CO2 capture plant in excess of 85%, and produced a high quality CO2 product suitable for geological storage. 

The project achieved more than 10,000 hours of oxy-combustion and more than 5,000 hours of carbon capture from Callide A. 

The plant was then decommissioned. 

CS Energy led the project and is working closely with an international team of partners including IHI Corporation (Japan), J-Power (Japan), Mitsui & Company (Japan), and Xstrata Coal.

Also in Australia the $150 million Delta Post Combustion Capture project hosted at Delta’s 1320 MWe Vales Point coal-fired power station in NSW aimed to demonstrate capture and sequestration of 100,000 t/yr of CO2 by 2015. 

However, after massive losses the plant was sold for a token sum in November 2015, with no mention of the CCS project.

Both Australian projects were funded by federal and state governments and the coal industry.

Press link for more: World.nuclear.org

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Scientists get a sobering picture of where we are headed. #climatechange #auspol 

By Nicola Jones

Last year marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million. 

By looking at what Earth’s climate was like in previous eras of high CO2 levels, scientists are getting a sobering picture of where we are headed.
Last year will go down in history as the year when the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. 

The last time the planet’s air was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter back then, and melted ice put sea levels tens of meters higher.

“We’re in a new era,” says Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Program in San Diego. “And it’s going fast. 

We’re going to touch up against 410 pretty soon.”
There’s nothing particularly magic about the number 400.

 But for environmental scientists and advocates grappling with the invisible, intangible threat of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, this symbolic target has served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change.
When scientists (specifically, Ralph Keeling’s father) first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently in 1958, at the pristine Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory in Hawaii, the CO2 level stood at 316 parts per million (ppm), just a little higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. 

400 was simply the next big, round number looming in our future.
But as humans kept digging up carbon out of the ground and burning it for fuel, CO2 levels sped faster and faster toward that target. 

In May 2013, at the time of the usual annual maximum of CO2, the air briefly tipped over the 400 ppm mark for the first time in several million years. 

In 2014, it stayed above 400 ppm for the whole month of April. 

By 2015, the annual average was above 400 ppm. 

And in September 2016, the usual annual low skimmed above 400 ppm for the first time, keeping air concentrations above that symbolic red line all year.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere have risen rapidly since measurements began nearly 60 years ago, climbing from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to more than 400 ppm today.

 (Levels a few centuries ago held steady at about 280 ppm.)


Concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere have risen rapidly since measurements began nearly 60 years ago, climbing from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to more than 400 ppm today. SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY

Global temperatures have risen in parallel, with 2016 standing as the hottest year since records started in 1880: 2016 was about 1.1 degrees C (2°F) warmer than pre-industrial levels. 

The 2015 Paris Agreement, the latest international climate treaty, is aiming to keep the global temperature increase well below 2 degrees C, and hopefully limit it to 1.5 degrees.

At the current rate of growth in CO2, levels will hit 500 ppm within 50 years, putting us on track to reach temperature boosts of perhaps more than 3 degrees C (5.4°F) — a level that climate scientists say would cause bouts of extreme weather and sea level rise that would endanger global food supplies, cause disruptive mass migrations, and even destroy the Amazon rainforest through drought and fire.
Each landmark event has given scientists and environmentalists a reason to restate their worries about what humans are doing to the climate.

 “Reaching 400 ppm is a stark reminder that the world is still not on a track to limit CO2 emissions and therefore climate impacts,” said Annmarie Eldering, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

“Passing this mark should motivate us to advocate for focused efforts to reduce emissions across the globe.
THE MODERN MEASURE
Back in the 1950s, scientist Charles David Keeling (Ralph Keeling’s father) chose the Mauna Loa volcano site to measure CO2 because it is a good spot to see large atmospheric averages. 

Rising to 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) in the middle of the ocean, Mauna Loa samples an air mass that has already been well mixed from the inputs and outputs of CO2 far below and far away. 

And the site, being a volcano, is surrounded by many miles of bare lava, helping to eliminate wobbles in the measurement from the “breathing” of nearby plants.
The start of Keeling’s effort was well timed: the 1950s was also when man-made emissions really began to take off, going from about 5 billion tons of CO2 per year in 1950 to more than 35 billion tons per year today.

 Natural sources of CO2, from forest fires to soil and plant respiration and decomposition, are much bigger than that — about 30 times larger than what mankind produces each year. 

But natural sinks, like plant growth and the oceans, tend to soak that up. 

The excess produced by mankind’s thirst for energy is what makes the CO2 concentration in the air go up and up. Once in the air, that gas can stay there for millennia.
The so-called Keeling Curve that plots this rise has an annual wiggle because the entire planet inhales and exhales like a giant living being. 

In the Northern Hemisphere (where the Mauna Loa observatory is based, and also where most of the planet’s landmass and land-based plants sit), the air in spring is filled with the CO2 released by soil microbes in the thawing snow, and by autumn the CO2 has been vacuumed up by a burst of summer plant life; hence the annual high in May and low in September.
While Mauna Loa has become the global standard for CO2 levels, measurements taken in other places have confirmed the Mauna Loa results. 

NOAA’s network of marine surface stations, and even a monitoring station in the remote, pristine Antarctic, all passed the 400 ppm hurdle in 2016. 

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 shows the planet hovering around 400 ppm, with variation from one place to another, mainly thanks to atmospheric circulation patterns.
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are now above 400 parts per million year-round globally.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 surpassed 400 ppm at the South Pole last year.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are now above 400 parts per million year-round globally [left], and last year surpassed 400 ppm at the South Pole. NOAA

THE LONG VIEW
In the big picture, 400 ppm is a low-to-middling concentration of CO2 for the planet Earth.
Some 500 million years ago, when the number of living things in the oceans exploded and creatures first stepped on land, the ancient atmosphere happened to be rich with about 7,000 ppm of carbon dioxide.

 Earth was very different back then: the Sun was cooler, our planet was in a different phase of its orbital cycles, and the continents were lumped together differently, changing ocean currents and the amount of ice on land. 

The planet was maybe as much as 10 degrees C (18°F) warmer than today, which might seem surprisingly cool for that level of greenhouse gas; with so many factors at play, the link between CO2 and temperature isn’t always easy to see. 

But researchers have confirmed that CO2 was indeed a major driver of the planet’s thermostat over the past 500 million years: large continental ice sheets formed and sea levels dropped when the atmosphere was low in CO2, for example.
Thanks to earth-shaking, slow-moving forces like plate tectonics, mountain building, and rock weathering — which absorb CO2 — atmospheric concentration of CO2 generally declined by about 13 ppm per million years, with a few major wobbles. 

As large plants evolved and became common about 350 million years ago, for example, their roots dug into the ground and sped up weathering processes that trap atmospheric carbon in rocks like limestone. This might have triggered a massive dip in CO2 levels and a glaciation 300 million years ago. That was eventually followed by a period of massive volcanic activity as the supercontinent ripped apart, spewing out enough CO2 to more than double its concentration in the air. 

CO2 levels over the last 400 million years. 


The last time CO2 levels were as high as today’s was about 3 million years ago. 

At right are different projections of future CO2 levels from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; under the worst-case scenario, CO2 concentrations would rise to 2,000 ppm by 2500 from 400 ppm today.

CO2 levels over the last 400 million years. The last time CO2 levels were as high as today’s was about 3 million years ago. FOSTER ET AL/DESCENT INTO THE ICEHOUSE

The last time the planet had a concentration of 300 to 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere was during the mid-Pliocene, 3 million years ago — recently enough for the planet to be not radically different than it is today. Back then, temperatures were 2 degrees C to 3 degrees C (3.6 to 5.4°F) above pre-industrial temperatures (though more than 10 degrees C hotter in the Arctic), and sea levels were at least 15-25 meters higher. Forest grew in the Canadian north and grasslands abounded worldwide; the Sahara was probably covered in vegetation. Homo habilis (aka “handy man”), the first species in the Homo line and probably the first stone-tool users, got a taste of this climate as they arrived on the scene 2.8 million years ago. (Homo sapiens didn’t show up until 400,000 years ago at the earliest.)
To find a time when the planet’s air was consistently above 400 ppm you have to look much farther back to the warm part of the Miocene, some 16 million years ago, or the Early Oligocene, about 25 million years ago, when Earth was a very different place and its climate totally dissimilar from what we might expect today.
There’s a lot of debate about both temperatures and CO2 levels from millions of years ago. But the evidence is much firmer for the last 800,000 years, when ice cores show that CO2 concentrations stayed tight between 180 and 290 ppm, hovering at around 280 ppm for some 10,000 years before the industrial revolution hit. (There have been eight glacial cycles over these past 800,000 years, mostly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit that run on 41,000 and 100,000 year timescales). This is the benchmark against which scientists usually note the unprecedented modern rise of CO2.
Frighteningly, this modern rise of CO2 is also accelerating at an unusual rate. 


In the late 1950s, the annual rate of increase was about 0.7 ppm per year; from 2005-2014 it was about 2.1 ppm per year. 
Concentrations of atmospheric CO2 soared in recent decades as industrialized nations continued to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and emissions in developing nations rose steeply. As this chart shows, the annual rate of CO2 increase in the early 1960s was about 0.7 ppm a year, compared to 2.1 ppm per year from 2005 to 2014.

Concentrations of atmospheric CO2 soared in recent decades as industrialized nations continued to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and emissions in developing nations rose steeply. NOAA/SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY

Paleo records hint that it usually takes much longer to shift CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere; although researchers can’t see what happened on time frames as short as decades in the distant past, the fastest blips they can see were an order of magnitude slower than what’s happening today. These were typically associated with some major stress like a mass extinction, notes Dana Royer, a climatologist at Wesleyan University. During the end-Triassic extinction 200 million years ago, for example, CO2 values jumped from about 1,300 ppm to 3,500 ppm thanks to massive volcanic eruptions in what is now the central Atlantic. That took somewhere between 1,000 to 20,000 years. Today we could conceivably change our atmosphere by thousands of parts per million in just a couple of hundred years. There’s nothing anywhere near that in the ice core records, says Keeling.
FUTURE SCENARIOS
Though 400 seems a big, scary number for now, CO2 concentrations could easily pass 500 ppm in the coming decades, and even reach 2,000 by 2250, if CO2 emissions are not brought under control.
Predicting future CO2 levels in the atmosphere is complicated; even if we know what will happen to man-made emissions, which depends on international policies and technological developments, the planet’s network of natural sources and sinks is vast and interlinked. Some plants grow faster in a carbon-rich world; deforestation takes some plants out of the equation; the ocean stores different amounts depending on its temperature and circulation.
If you completely ignore the questions of what society might do to curb emissions, and what the planet might do to suck them up, and just look purely mathematically at where the Keeling Curve is going, levels cross 500 ppm around 2050.
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from 2013 made a more realistic estimate of what might happen, and what the temperature outcome would be.
In the IPCC’s most pessimistic scenario, where the population booms, technology stagnates, and emissions keep rising, the atmosphere gets to a startling 2,000 ppm by about 2250. (All the IPCC scenarios presume that mankind’s impact on the atmosphere levels out by 2300.) That gives us an atmosphere last seen during the Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed, and causes an apocalyptic temperature rise of perhaps 9 degrees C (16°F).
In the next-most-pessimistic scenario, emissions peak around 2080 and then decline, leading to an atmosphere of about 700 ppm and probable temperature increases of more than 3 degrees C.
In the most optimistic scenario, where emissions peak now (2010-2020) and start to decline, with humans actually sucking more carbon out of the air than they produce by 2070, the atmosphere dips back down below 400 ppm somewhere between 2100 and 2200 and the temperature increase is held under 1 degrees C in the long term. 
Projected concentrations of CO2 under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500.


Projected temperature increases under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500.

These graphs from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show projected concentrations of CO2 [left] and projected temperature increases under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500. IPCC

SLOWING DOWN
If man-made emissions were to magically drop to zero tomorrow, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would start to level out immediately — but it would probably take about a decade to detect this slowdown against the background of the natural carbon cycle, according to Keeling.
Even with zero emissions, getting back to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm is “sort of a 10,000-year proposition,” says Keeling. Atmospheric concentrations would drop relatively quickly at first, as the surface ocean sucked up a good chunk of the excess carbon in the air (that would take on the order of 100 years); then some atmospheric carbon would work its way into the deeper ocean (in about 1,000 years); then the planet’s carbon cycle — for example, the weathering of rocks — would soak up most of the rest over about 10,000 years.
It’s encouraging to see that, since 2014, total emissions have stayed basically flat despite continued growth in the global economy, mainly thanks to reduced coal burning in China. But steady emissions are a far cry from reduced emissions, zero emissions, or even “negative emissions” (where humanity uses technology to soak up more than we emit). 
​Real emissions plotted against the IPCC’s projections of CO2 emissions and temperature increases through 2100. Emissions-reduction pledges made by various nations at the U.N. Paris climate conference in 2015 will likely lead to a temperature rise by 2100 of roughly 3 degrees C, exceeding the U.N. target of holding increases below 2 degrees C.

Real emissions plotted against the IPCC’s projections of CO2 emissions and temperature increases through 2100. GLOBAL CARBON PROJECT

The non-profit Global Carbon Project estimates that the planet’s current trajectory of emissions is on track to meet the national commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement up to 2030, but not to meet the long-term goal of stabilizing the climate system below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. So that puts us somewhere in the middle zone of the IPCC’s projections; right now it’s hard to tell which long-term path we are heading for, although the most optimistic scenario — with emissions starting to decline significantly in the next few years — is arguably out of reach.
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted… CO2 will need to be reduced… to at most 350 ppm,” Columbia University climate guru James Hansen has said. We sailed past that target in about 1990, and it will take a gargantuan effort to turn back the clock.

 Nicola Jones

Nicola Jones is a freelance journalist based in Pemberton, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. With a background in chemistry and oceanography, she writes about the physical sciences, most often for the journal Nature. She has also contributed to Scientific American, Globe and Mail, and New Scientist and serves as the science journalist in residence at the University of British Columbia. 

Press link for more: E360.yale.edu

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Sea Levels ‘Could Rise Higher Than A Three-Storey Buiding’ #climatechange #auspol 

Sea levels ‘could rise higher than a three-storey building due to climate change’


The last time ocean temperatures were this warm, sea levels were up to nine metres higher than they are today, according to the findings of a new study, which were described as “extremely worrying” by one expert. 
The researchers took samples of sediment from 83 different sites around the world, and these “natural thermometers” enabled them to work out what the sea surface temperature had been more than 125,000 years ago. 

This revealed that over the course of some 4,000 years the oceans had got about 0.5C warmer, reaching about the same temperatures as are found now – after a similar increase achieved largely as a result of human-induced climate change in little over a century. 


Previous research has established that sea levels at the time were between six and nine metres higher. 

This gives an indication of what sea levels might be like once the vast oceans expand and ice sheets melt over the course of the next centuries and millennia. 
If sea levels were to increase by nine metres, parts of London and New York, almost all the Netherlands, huge chunks of China, including Shanghai, and much of Bangladesh would be just some of the places that would be lost to the sea. But the bad news does not end there. 


For the computer models used by scientists to predict what the climate will be like in the future had failed to pick up on the rise in temperatures 125,000 years ago. 

This suggests the models could be missing a key warming effect that might be about to kick in, sending temperatures higher than currently expected. 
Another recent study suggested the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases could be much greater than previously thought, potentially putting the world on course for more than 7C of warming by 2100 – a prospect described as “game over” for life as we know it. 
Dr Jeremy Hoffman, of Oregon State University, lead author of a paper in the prestigious journal Science about the new research, told The Independent that sea levels some 125,000 years ago might give a rough indication of what could be expected over the next few centuries as the warmer temperatures slowly take effect. 

But he stressed the reasons for the global warming then and now were very different – the former was natural, the latter caused by humans – so the world’s last major warm period could not be viewed as a simple way to predict the future. 
“There are a lot of things that have happened over the last century that far outpace the natural world,” Dr Hoffman said. 

“It’s not just the warming, it’s the release of carbon from reservoirs [of fossil fuels] in the planet that have been around for millions of years. 
“We’re talking about something that took millions of years to form and we’re removing it in decades,” he said. “The Earth would need to have an eruption like Mount St Helen’s happen every 2.5 hours … to keep pace with the emissions we are producing.” 

Dr Hoffman said perhaps the most significant implication of their research was that current computer models of climate change were failing to pick up on the warming 125,000 years ago. 

“If we are missing some process that would give rise to additional warming [at that time] … that would only work to be under-estimating the future climate as well,” Dr Hoffman said. 
Commenting on the research, Andrew Watson, a Royal Society research professor at Exeter University, said: “Sea level responds directly to global temperatures, but slowly, so that the full extent of sea level rise will only be apparent over thousands of years.

 The study suggests that in the long term, sea level will rise six metres at least in response to the warming we are causing. 

The good news is that with luck it will continue to rise slowly, so that we have time to adapt, but the bad news is that eventually all our present coastal city locations will be inundated.” 
Professor Richard Allan, a climatologist at Reading University, said: “The result that present global sea surface temperatures are indistinguishable from those at the last interglacial 125,000 years ago is extremely worrying since sea levels were six to nine metres higher then compared to present.” 

He said that heating up the “depths of our vast oceans” to the point where sea levels reached that point would take thousands of years “so sustained and substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive activities remain vital and beneficial to societies”. 


And Professor Michael Mann, a renowned climate scientist from Pennsylvania State University, described the studies findings as “sobering”. He continued: “It indicates that we may very well already be committed to several more metres of sea level rise when the climate system catches up with the carbon dioxide we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere.”

 
Dr Mann added: “That is actually consistent with some model simulations. 

The important thing to recognise is that the climate system hasn’t yet come into equilibrium with the increase in carbon dioxide, so it is misleading to compare the historical sea level rise we’ve seen so far with the sea level rise 125,000 years ago, because the latter indicates the full response [to the warming effect].” 

Press link for more: Economic Times Indi

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I Don’t Believe in Climate Change #Auspol #science 

I don’t believe in climate change: A line in the sand

Mark Robinson 

Meteorologist

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 12:01 PM – I don’t believe in climate change.
Wait! Before you start smashing a nasty reply back to me, keep reading.
As a trained meteorologist, storm chaser who also studied wildlife biology as an undergraduate, I don’t believe in climate change.
I accept the overwhelming evidence for it.
And that’s the critical point. When you’re talking about science, there’s no such thing as believe. There’s an acceptance or a rejection of the evidence presented. I hear far too often, from both side of the “debate” that this person or that person BELIEVES in climate change.
It drives me up the wall.

But it’s also the crux of the issue.

 I have talked to many people about climate change and why I accept the evidence for it. 

One commonality that I find with people who reject the evidence is an almost religiosity in their belief (and I use this term correctly) that the evidence is either not there or has been faked, or manipulated, or… whatever. There’s a long list.


I have no issue talking with people about their point of view.

 I like it. 

It’s my way of getting out of my own echo chamber that’s so easy to fall into. 

The only thing that I ask is that if you want to debate this, bring your science to the table. 

Otherwise it’s bringing a chihuahua to a badger fight. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to last long.

What I continuously find is that the people who want to discuss it have no science, but a metric (expletive)-tonne of belief. 

I get told that the planet’s been cooling for the last 10 years, or that Climategate is still a thing.

 Or that Michael E. Mann’s graph has been debunked. 

Sources for this information are almost inevitably a blog post or a web page. 

It’s almost never credible peer-reviewed journals; which constitute the gold standard for science.

It’s the exact same tactics I practiced in my wildlife biology undergrad, but substitute evolution for climatology. 

 The same lack of real science, the same conspiracy theory tactics, the same Gish Gallops, it’s all there again.
I don’t believe in evolution either.

 I accept the overwhelming evidence for it. 

Scientific truth isn’t something you “feel”. 

It doesn’t depend on your political preferences.
Science is the single most powerful method humans have ever come up with to get as close to “truth” as possible.
And I for one, am not going to let it be destroyed because some people don’t like its conclusions.
This is my line in the sand.

Press link for more: The Weather Network

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LNG, Recession,China & Wind reduce US carbon emissions (Less Coal) #auspol 

Energy Technologies, Markets, and Government Policies’ 

Major Impacts on U.S. Carbon Emissions, 2005-2016
Energy-and-Policy-Developments-rect
The U.S. continues to make fairly good progress in reducing its fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions since the mid-2000’s. 

This article updates a previously posted analysis, which detailed government policies, technologies and market factors that have most enabled the U.S. to continue reducing its total fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions.
2005-16 U.S. Carbon Emissions – U.S. carbon emissions from fossil fuels consumption peaked just before the 2007-09 Great Recession. 

Following the recession and the relatively slow economic recovery, U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions have continuously declined on average.
Figure 1


Data Source – EIA MER carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels consumption.
U.S. fossil fuels’ carbon emissions nearly peaked at 6,000 million metric tons per year (MMT/yr.) in 2005. 

Total carbon emissions have declined by 935 MMT/yr. or 16% 2005-16. 

This level of carbon emissions’ reduction represents over half of the U.S. Paris Climate Agreement pledge made late last year.
The reduction in U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions has been primarily due to a large decline in coal consumption. 

Coal consumption has declined due to the combination of ‘fuels-switching’ to lower carbon power generation sources and accelerated retirements of Coal Power plants.


 To better understand the impacts of different government policies, energy technologies and market related factors lets first review the changes of fossil fuels demand and carbon emissions for each U.S. ‘End-Use’ Sector.
Figure 2


Data source – EIA MER.

 Note: EIA data has been modified by separating the Power Sector’s carbon emissions from the four End-Use Sectors’ total emissions. 

The carbon emissions for the Transportation Sector are based on motor fuels consumption and the Power, Industrial, Residential & Commercial Sectors emissions are based primarily on heating fuels consumption.
The Power Sector’s reduction in carbon emissions is the largest contributor to total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 71% of the total reduction. 

This emission reduction is primarily due to a combination of ‘fuels switching’ to lower carbon natural gas fuel and expansion of renewable power generation. 

The Industrial Sector is the second largest contributor to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 11% of the total.

 This carbon emission reduction has been unfortunately due primarily to the decline in U.S. Manufacturing Sector’s production output and the increased imports.
The Transportation Sector’s carbon emissions declined significantly following the 2007-09 Recession, up to 2012.

 This was due to a combination of increased vehicle’s fuel efficiency (CAFE) and renewable fuels (RFS2) standards, and, reduced vehicle’s usage or decrease in average vehicle miles travelled (VMT) 2008-12. 


 Total petroleum motor fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions has unfortunately begun increasing significantly 2012-16. 

This has been due to increased vehicles purchases & registrations (largely SUV’s and Light Duty Trucks recently), increasing VMT and total increased fuels consumption by the growing U.S. population (2.3 million per year average growth 2005-16). 

Fortunately, the net Transportation Sector’s overall decline of carbon emissions contributed to 9% of total U.S. emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The Residential Sector’s natural gas and petroleum heating fuels consumptions also declined significantly over the past decade and contributed to 7% of total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 

This was due primarily to increased efficiency technologies and possibly improved Resident’s consumption behaviors.

 Increased Residential energy efficiency has been support by numerous State and Federal energy efficiency policies and programs (EERE for example). 

Although the Commercial Sector’s fossil fuels consumption should have been influenced-reduced by similar EERE policies, its reduction in carbon emissions only contributed to < 2% of total U.S. reduced carbon emissions 2005-16.
Major Contributing Factors to Reduced U.S. Carbon Emissions – Since 2005 total U.S. fossil fuels consumption and mix have changed very significantly. 

These changes have been strongly influenced by a number of factors, including market price, recent technology developments, and past-recent Government policies & regulations.
Figure 3


Data source – EIA MER.
‘Fuels switching’ from coal to lower carbon natural gas in the Power Sector has clearly been the largest contributing factor towards total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 


During 2005-16 coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has reduced total U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions by 50%.

 Major contributing factors for making the switch from coal-to-natural gas have been heating fuel market prices, shutdown-retirement of over 30% of Coal Power Plants and a 7% increase in Natural Gas Power Plants since 2005. 

The Coal Power Plant shutdowns are largely the result of substantially growing compliance costs for the EPA regulations including the Clean Air Mercury Rule and the future likely impacts of the developing EPA Clean Power Plan.
Natural Gas Power Plants ‘net generation’ has grown due to both increased utilization of available Power Plants’ capacities and construction of new-higher efficiency Power Plants.

 The major factor to increased coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has been almost a 2/3rds. drop in natural gas market prices since 2005; while coal prices remained fairly constant during the same period.
Wind Power is the next largest contributing factor towards U.S. reduced carbon emissions.


 During 2005-16, the combination of Federal and State regulations created major incentives and/or mandates for the construction, power generation, and production tax credits for new-recently built Wind Power. 

Total net Wind Power generation grew 13-fold 2005-16 and the percentage of total U.S. electric power net generation from Wind Power increased from 0.4% (2005) up to 5.7% in 2016. 

Wind Power contributed to 14% of U.S. total carbon emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The reduction in the fossil fuels and power consumption in primarily the Residential & Commercial Sectors was third largest (13% of the total) contributing factor for reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16. 

This was due to a combination of increased energy efficiency technologies installations and use, and, other factors that encouraged and/or led to reduced fossil fuels consumption by most Consumers in the Residential and Commercial Sectors. 

Part of the reduced energy consumption was likely due in-part to the relatively slow recovery from the 2007-09 Great Recession and Middle Class average wage stagnation; which limits most Residents’ discretionary income during this period.
The next factor that contributed to 11% of total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 was reduced fossil fuels and power consumption of the Industrial Sector. 

While efficiency improvements likely contributed to a small fraction of reduced fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions, the major impact was unfortunately due to reduced U.S. domestic ‘durable goods’ production & manufacture. This included slowdown of many Industries/Manufacturing facilities’ outputs such as steel production, building materials & hardware-parts fabrication, vehicles & appliances manufacturing, etc.

 These and other domestically produced-manufactured durable goods have been overwhelmingly replaced by increased imports, and trade deficits.
One factor rarely covered in the Media is the fact that U.S. Industries are among the most energy efficient and least carbon intensive compared to most off-shore sources of imported durable goods from countries such as China. 

The net result has been very significant and growing ‘carbon leakage’. 

In other words, the reduction in the U.S. Industrial Sector’s durable goods production 2005-16 may have reduced U.S. carbon emissions by about 100 MMT/yr., but at the expense of shifting these carbon emissions to other countries, primarily China.


 The full lifecycle impact of shutting down U.S. domestic durable goods production with generally lower efficiency Chinese durable goods imports, and shipping them from Asia-to-North America via marine transport, has increased ‘Total World’ carbon emissions. 

This has most likely resulted in a net-increase of World carbon emissions by an additional 25-50 MMT/yr. (added leakage) greater than if the U.S. Consumer durable goods had been produced domestically.
The next largest factor (8%) to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 has been largely due to the Transportation Sector’s compliance with Federal regulations. 

The combination of increased Renewable Fuels (blending) and CAFE standards have had the largest impacts on reducing vehicles petroleum motor fuels consumption and offsetting the growing Population’s use of transportation vehicles; lighter duty cars & trucks, and heavier duty/commercial trucks, railroad, and marine.

 To possibly further reduce future U.S. carbon emissions the EPA has substantially increased future CAFE standards and more recently began developing new efficiency regulations for heavier duty vehicles. 

Despite expanding these vehicle related carbon emission regulations, the growth in Transportation Sector vehicle fleets and usage (increased VMT), resulted in increasing petroleum consumption since 2012.
Increases in Nuclear, Solar and Hydropower+biomass+Geothermal Power net generation(s) have reduced U.S. total carbon emissions by a total of about 4%. Growth in Nuclear and Hydropower have been due to increased capacity factors or utilization of existing Power Plants. 

Growth in Solar and Geothermal has been due to increased power generation capacity construction, and, biomass is some combination thereof.
In Conclusion – The U.S. was the World’s largest emitter of carbon emissions before 2007; the year U.S. emissions from fossil fuels peaked.
 In 2007 China’s rapidly growing (and lower energy efficient) economy led to their country’s carbon emissions exceeding the U.S. and becoming the largest & continuously growing source of the World’s total carbon emissions ever since.

 Two other major events occurred beginning about 2007: the Great Recession, and the rapid development of U.S. domestic Oil & Gas ‘hydraulic fracturing’ technologies. Oil and Gas market prices peaked during the recession, then fell to 10-year lows due to increased market supply.

 Unlike crude oil which is primarily influenced by World markets (and/or OPEC), domestic natural gas prices continued to decline following the recession and most the following recovery years. 


This factor led to natural gas increasingly replacing alternative Power Section fuel sources; coal & some petroleum. 

During this same period, renewables (primarily Wind Power) and consumption efficiencies technologies continued to grow & evolve, and reduce the need for some fossil fuels.
The obvious question is: “Will the U.S. continue to make similar progress in the near future?”. 


The answer to this question is of course fairly complex, with significant uncertainties. 

Even though the new Administration has stated they plan to restore the Coal Industry, their ability to accomplish this is somewhat limited. 

Since domestic U.S. natural gas production is projected to continue growing and maintain its lower costs relative to alternative coal fuels, it’s unlikely that ‘fuels switching’ will decline in the near future. 

Also, since a large number of States have adopted regulations that mandate reducing their in-state power supplies’ carbon emissions, and even if the Federal Government temporarily cancels the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the likelihood of the Power Sector replacing recently retired Coal Power Plants in the foreseeable future is very small; i.e. too risky for most investors. 

And, as long as many States continue with their lower carbon power supplies mandates and the Federal Government continues to support Wind & Solar Power capacity growth and power generation subsidies, these renewable power sources should continue to grow significantly in the foreseeable future.
Assuming the Residential & Commercial efficiency improvements continue to expand, this should hopefully result in offsetting increased good & services consumption by the U.S.’s continually growing Population.

 Also, if the new Administration successfully grows the Economy at rates significantly > 2% (U.S. GDP average growth 2009-2016) and the Industrial Sector’s durable goods production increases (reduced imports/trade deficits), World carbon emissions should actually decline at greater rates than increased U.S. Industrial Sector carbon emissions.
Sustaining and possibly growing Nuclear and Hydropower will likely continue to be major challenges.

 If the current Administration truly supports growing the Nuclear Power Industry as stated during the recent campaign, then significantly expanding this zero-carbon technology will definitely help reduce future U.S. carbon emissions. 

Hydropower will likely still face major Environmentalist resistance, which has hindered this major-existing zero carbon power generation source for decades.
Possibly the largest future challenges to further and continuously reducing U.S. fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions will be the Transportation Sector and offsetting the continuously growing Population’s use of all modes of transportation.


 Unless accelerating the expansion of alternative lower-zero carbon transportation fuels & technologies become a reality in the near future, the U.S. could likely continue experiencing increased Transportation Sector petroleum consumption and carbon emissions. 


Electric vehicles (EV) are probably the most feasible solution to reducing and eliminating the need for petroleum motor fuels. 

Besides massively expanding light duty EV fleets, States and the Federal Government need to consider other commercial vehicle alternatives such as electric powered railroads & mass transit, medium-heavier duty on-road EV’s, and other transportation modes that can feasibly and cost effectively be powered by lower carbon electric power sources in the future.

Press link for more: The Energy Collective

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On the science of Climate Change #auspol

On the science of climate change
In an interview last week, Computer Science professor David Gelernter told the News: “For human beings to change the climate of the planet is a monstrously enormous undertaking…I haven’t seen convincing evidence of it” (“Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change,” Jan. 25, 2017). Gelernter is widely rumored to be in consideration for the position of President Donald Trump’s science adviser, and his comments insinuate that human activity is insufficient to cause such change.

While we agree with Gelernter’s premise about the magnitude of human activity needed to alter the planetary climate system, we disagree with his conclusions.

 In consulting peer-reviewed scientific literature, we find that the energy expended by billions of people over nearly two centuries is in fact a significant climatological and geological force.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), along with other carbon-bearing molecules in the atmosphere such as methane, is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet — a relationship that has been known since the release of a classic study by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, and which has been confirmed by numerous independent experiments.

 


CO2 levels have now risen above 400 parts per million by volume, relative to a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppmv. That difference corresponds to about 250 billion tons of carbon added to the atmosphere. 

 Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2007 global inventory of fossil fuel combustion, cement production and land-use changes such as deforestation indicates that humans have emitted about 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere since 1850. 

This is indeed a “monstrously enormous” figure. 
 It is so enormous that the abrupt atmospheric CO2 rise, reaching levels substantially higher — and at a pace far faster —than those of natural glacial-interglacial cycles, represents only half of the anthropogenic effects on Earth’s carbon cycle. The other half of the emitted carbon has been taken up in roughly equal measures by the land surface and the oceans. 

As a result, the oceans have been slowly acidifying.
How sensitive is global climate to CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere?

 The connection is quantified using a factor called the “climate sensitivity,” which is the number of degrees Celsius rise caused by each doubling of CO2.

 “Sensitivity” is an appropriate term given that even small variations of greenhouse gases can lead to either a completely ice-covered or totally ice-free Earth; as illustrated by many computer simulations of climate, including a pioneering 1992 study by Ken Caldeira and James F. Kasting. 


 The climate sensitivity factor combines the summed effects of ocean heat uptake, changes in atmospheric humidity, as well as changes in clouds and planetary reflectivity. Climate sensitivity is not constant under all conditions; the estimates summarized by Reto Knutti and Gabriel C. Hegerl in 2008 range within 2-5 degrees Celsius per CO2 doubling.
It should be no surprise, then, that during the same industrial-era time interval when atmospheric CO2 rose by nearly 50%, the averaged global temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius, as documented by a team of scientists from Oregon State and Harvard in 2013.

According to a 2004 study by R.J. Klee and T.E. Graedel, carbon emissions are just one example among many cases where human activity has mobilized geological materials at rates far exceeding natural processes. Our species has become uniquely powerful in its environmental potency. Those who deny an anthropogenic cause of global warming have been called “climate skeptics,” a euphemistic term that would appear to give them an elevated ethical standing in critical thought. Based on our consideration of well-documented scientific research, and like the vast majority of Earth scientists — as documented in a 2016 study in the journal Environmental Research Letters — we reject the hypothesis that human carbon emissions have had zero effect on global climate.
We welcome rational discussion on this issue, grounded in reference to peer-reviewed studies by researchers with a long-term and serious engagement in climate science. Skepticism expressed for its own sake — without factual knowledge — does not contribute to scientific advancement and does not belong in the conversation.
David Evans is a professor of Geology & Geophysics. The column is jointly written with 18 other faculty members in the department: Jay Ague, David Bercovici, Ruth Blake, William Boos, Mark Brandon, Alexey Fedorov, Pincelli Hull, Jun Korenaga, Kanani Lee, Maureen Long, Jeffrey Park, Noah Planavsky, Alan Rooney, Brian Skinner, Ronald Smith, Trude Storelvmo, Mary-Louise Timmermans and John Wettlaufer. 

Press link for more: Yale Daily News

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Join the #Climate rebellion says Michael Mann #Standupforscience #Auspol 

One of the world’s leading climatologists is calling for a “rebellion” by scientists against Donald Trump.
Professor Michael Mann, whose work was key in demonstrating that global temperatures had risen dramatically because of human activity, said academics and researchers were usually reluctant to take to the streets in protests.
But Mr Trump’s “assault on science” meant the US was “firmly back in the madhouse” of climate science denial, he said, and required a response from the community.

The new US President dismissed climate change as a Chinese hoax before the US election and since then has appointed a string of people with links to the fossil fuel industry and a track record of global warming scepticism to senior positions in his administration.
And, as Professor Mann, of Pennsylvania State University, wrote in an article for The Hill website, Mr Trump has also “barred the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing studies or data prior to review by political appointees and has told them to remove mention of climate change from their website”. 
“The White House’s own climate webpage has been disappeared for good measure,” he added.
“It is difficult to keep up with this dizzying ongoing assault on science.” 
Following the anti-Trump Women’s Marches around the world, there are now plans for a March for Science in Washington and other places next month.

“We scientists are, in general, a reticent lot who would much rather spend our time in the lab, out in the field, teaching and doing research,” Professor Mann wrote.
“It is only the most unusual of circumstances that gets us marching in the streets. 
“Trump’s assault on science is just such a circumstance.

 And we are seeing a rebellion continue to mount.”
Professor Mann recently published a book called The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.
He said at the time he was criticised by other “well-meaning fellow climate scientists” for dignifying denial by writing about it.
But he said the book “couldn’t seem any more prophetic” following Mr Trump’s election.

It meant that someone with views largely dismissed by politicians and scientists all over the world is now one of the most powerful people on the planet.
“The era of climate change denial is over. Rejection of the unequivocal scientific evidence that carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are warming the planet and changing our climate is no longer socially acceptable,” Professor Mann said.
“Only the most fringe of politicians now disputes the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused, and they are largely ignored.”

Press link for more: independent.co.uk