Eight years, four months, and a handful of days: or less. As Andrew Simms writes in the UK Guardian, that’s all the time we have left before global heating crosses the level (2C) at which natural "feed-back" processes kick in…and our biosphere careens up the curve of accelerating warming. If your oldest child is seven, the window slams shut before he or she will be old enough for a driver’s license. If your first grandchild was born this year, cherish your posterity: that grandchild’s likely to be the last of your line. Unless….unless we force action now and over the next 100 months.
What’s the rush? Well, as global temperature rises exceed 2C, ice loss from global warming exposes more (dark) sea surface to absorb heat, increased winds over the seas decrease the deep oceans’ CO2 absorption, and stores of methane locked into tundra under permafrost escape as the surface thaws.
In the UK Guardian article Simms — policy director and head of the climate change programme at NEF (the New Economics Foundation) — used material on climate models prepared by Dr Victoria Johnson, researcher at NEF on climate change. At the NEF, they state the level of global warming gases (carbon dioxide equivalents – or CO2e) we must not exceed is 400 parts per million. They state
we have taken the concentration threshold to be 400 parts per million volume (ppm)
expressed as the more complete measure of carbon dioxide equivalent. Only by stabilising emissions at this concentration is it ‘likely’ that the global average temperature change will stabilise at 2º C above pre-industrial levels. In December 2007, the likely CO2e concentration is estimated to be just under 377 ppm
The NEF folk also observe their calculations may be too generous: which means we may have even less than 100 months. As Australian of the year and noted climate scientist Tim Flannery noted last October:
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will show that greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in mid-2005 had reached about 455 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent — a level not expected for another 10 years.
"We thought we’d be at that threshold within about a decade," Flannery told Australian television late on Monday.
On June 23, NASA’s James Hansen told Congress:
the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.
George Monbiot summed up the sums during last years failed Bali conference:
In the new summary published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you will find a table which links different cuts to likely temperatures(6). To prevent global warming from eventually exceeding 2°, it suggests, by 2050 the world needs to cut its emissions to roughly 15% of the volume in 2000.
A paper in Geophysical Research Letters finds that even with a 90% global cut by 2050, the 2° threshold "is eventually broken"(13). To stabilise temperatures at 1.5° above the pre-industrial level requires a global cut of 100%. The diplomats who started talks in Bali yesterday should be discussing the complete decarbonisation of the global economy.
No surprise. Kyoto — despite the fanfare — also failed….in no small part because Vice President Al Gore sabotaged it.
In [Kyoto and Bali] the United States demanded terms which appeared impossible for the other nations to accept. Before Kyoto, the other negotiators flatly rejected Gore’s proposals for emissions trading. So his team threatened to sink the talks. The other nations capitulated, but the US still held out on technicalities until the very last moment, when it suddenly appeared to concede. In 1997 and in 2007 it got the best of both worlds: it wrecked the treaty and was praised for saving it.
Hilary Benn is an idiot. Our diplomats are suckers. United States negotiators have pulled the same trick twice and for the second time our governments have fallen for it.
George Monbiot and the UK aren’t the only folks in the G8 cursed with eco-morons passing as political leaders.
Why…just last week in the US, our most prominent Democratic pol broke with other party leaders and moved to end a stalemate that effectively prevented opening additional offshore waters to oil drilling….by appearing to endorse opening additional offshore waters to drilling! Now that’ll show Big Carbon: how to roll over ambitious pols, anyway.
So…we gotta move towards decarbonization stat or the kids are toast. Just as during Kyoto and Bali, the ambitious pols who pass for Dem "leaders" will stick a knife in our kids’ future whenever it seems to help their careers…which is to say whenever Big Carbon can wind up the Hate Media Wurlitzer. In other words, just about any time they’re awake.
Our politicians lie to us and betray us to seek Power: what’s new? Well — there — nothing.
Fortunately, we’re not stuck relying on the political classes to save our kids’ asses. If we were, we truly would be fried.
Even the feckless pols who pass for leaders on the US national stage haven’t been able to sell us new nukes. Not for want of trying: the US gives the glow-in-the dark folks subsidies exceeding 100%. So aren’t nukes taking off? They’ve not economic.
nuclear cannot actually deliver the climate or the security benefits claimed for it. It’s unrelated to oil. And it’s grossly uneconomic, which means the nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It’s a very carefully fabricated illusion. And the reason it isn’t happening is there are no buyers. That is, Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies.
most of a nuclear plant built now in the US, if there were any, would have to be imported, which, by the way, means we buy it in weak US dollars, which is part of the incredible cost escalation we’ve seen. Moody’s latest number is $7,500 a kilowatt. That’s, again, as the Journal said, about two to four times the numbers that were being bandied about just last year by promoters.
A new nuclear plant, according to Moody’s, would send out electricity for about fifteen cents a kilowatt-hour, which is half, again, as much as the average residential rate.
Who sez? Amory Lovins: co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute — the fellow even Big Carbon pays to listen to:
You know, I’ve worked for major oil companies for about thirty-five years, and they understand how expensive it is to drill for oil.
So what — according to Lovins — are the solutions that allow us to step off the hydrocarbon road to global roasting and onto a sustainable path?
You need a source that doesn’t emit carbon-nuclear emits a little bit in the fuel cycle and in building plants, and so on. But you need one that doesn’t emit carbon and is faster and cheaper than other ways to do the same thing. You see, renewables don’t emit carbon. Efficiency doesn’t emit carbon. Cogeneration based on recovered waste heat you were throwing away anyhow doesn’t emit carbon, because you already paid for the carbon in making the useful part of the heat in industry.
Efficiency: as Lovins is fond of saying, the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. This idea’s simple enough that even ambitious pols get it: tuned cars with fully inflated tires really do save energy.
Now that the Bushies, their megacorp masters, and megacorps’ idiot cheeleading squad in the Chicago Cult have wrecked our economy and flushed the dollar out of the reserve currency pool, imported oil is ruinously expensive.
Fortunately, oil from algae offers an interim transitional step away from fossil fuels. Solar baseload furnaces using molten salts allow storing solar energy for centralized electicity transmission — and 50 MW solar farm power plants can come on line in as little as 26 months. Over the longer near-term, MIT Professor Nocera’s now famous discovery appears to open the door for decentralized, carbon-free power.
"This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."
Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.
"I don’t think that an Apollo or a Manhattan style crash program is what we need. We have plenty of technology to solve this problem cost effectively; we need to apply it,"
Yep. We’ve got solutions even our pols can understand and get behind: and they’re cheaper than imported fossil fuels, infinitely safer than coal.
We can get CO2 levels down to 350: all we need to do is push our pols’ away from subsidies and "compromises" which are simply surrenders to Big Carbon.
Now that’ll take the best kind of energy: people power.
[photo: a shot in the dark]