Is anybody actually doing anything about climate change?

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by parmalee, Aug 8, 2023.

  1. Ken Fabian Registered Member

    I will add my 2c worth.

    They haven't gone away they are just less focused on claiming global warming is false (although they continue downplaying it's severity and seek to make anything any scientist gets wrong - or any cold snap - justification for rejecting everything scientists are getting right). There is renewed focus on one of the most successful memes, the raising of alarmist (as in false) economic fears - of energy deprivation and economic disaster from "excessive" reliance on renewable energy, which happens to be the one area where we keep exceeding all expectations and presents a real threat - the only real threat - to fossil fuel dependency. The world installed more than 400 GW of solar alone last year - in GWh terms (20% capacity factor terms) that is 80 or more 1 GW nuclear plants worth, with year on year growth of more than 50%. That much, that quickly. Much of it in China, where it should reduce energy poverty and put in place the groundwork for declining reliance on fossil fuels in the highest emitting nation.

    It isn't the underwhelming power of climate activism that is doing that, it is science, engineering and capitalist entrepreneurship and ultimately the overwhelming power of market forces, because renewable energy works very well indeed.

    When mainstream politics handed the climate issue off to known anti-nuclear environmentalism in you care so much, you fix it style support for renewable energy was political empty gesture at best and give em enough rope at worst and both ways with the certainty their alternative energy options would never work and the fossil fuel status quo would be unaffected. My view is that was both a profound betrayal of public trust by people holding the highest Offices with the overarching duty of care to take the top level expert advice seriously... and the best mistake they have made so far.

    Within just one decade of solar crossing into cost competitiveness in most regions of the world it has became the most built kind of new electricity by a large margin (followed by wind). That quickly. We can look at data from before then to show how poorly renewables have been doing historically but look at data since then and we can see how extraordinary their growth is. The IEA - not exactly known for overhyping renewables - expect solar cell production to exceed 1TW per year by 2025, ie within 2 years. The very large stocks of fossil fuels and economic momentum can disguise how significant that shift is but nothing will be the same because of renewable energy.

    Batteries halved in costs 3 times over in the 2010's and are on their way further downwards; Australia got it's first grid connected battery farm only 7 years ago, now has 13 mostly much larger ones and whole mega battery factories have come into production within that time. That much, that quickly.

    Renewable energy is the one serious cause for optimism in the gloom. It is not the same as problem solved but we are better placed than ever before to commit to zero emissions and make it work.
    Ivan Seeking likes this.
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  3. Ivan Seeking Registered Senior Member

    The drop in the price of solar per watt is simply staggering.

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  5. Ken Fabian Registered Member

    Ivan - More recently solar panels have seen prices down to around Euro 10c (US 11c) per watt for "next best" PERC panels, with newest best around 20c - and I have (vague) recollections of claims that solar had to get below US$1 per watt to be viable, and that was considered so unlikely at the time as to be impossible. Costs are still going down so even if 11c per watt isn't yet the norm it likely will be. Perovskite and other thin film solar may have disappointed so far but aren't out of all contention. Meanwhile silicon just keeps getting better and there are big commitments in play to large scale solar cell production outside China. Which is still rapidly expanding.

    I think nuclear is going to continue to struggle to gain traction both politically and economically - and without the economically part the politically part is harder. Solar, wind, batteries are making it harder - solar and wind by reducing the hours per day a plant can make money and batteries by competing for the shrinking proportion higher value electricity demand that is left. Even wind might be vulnerable to batteries if they achieve similar development and growth curves to solar. Optimism for RE is unlikely to be diverted away into support for nuclear on any hypothetical nuclear is better for climate/environment basis because rapid growth isn't driven by climate politics anymore, it is driven by fundamental demand for electricity and commercial decision making. Currently climate policy looks like it is about taking advantage rather than deep made plans. And RE growth is flexible, adaptable and not constrained to any single technological solution; the wonder is that there are so many ways to make solar energy and so many ways to make batteries.

    That's cause for cautious optimism but I swing from that to pessimism again - and I find no shortage of causes for pessimism; conservative politics here in Australia - where RE is already beyond stopping - remain well resourced and unwavering in their fight to save Australia's fossil fuels from global warming. They like nuclear, especially the most expensive and most non-existent form of nuclear (besides fusion) - SMR's. With friends like that...
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  7. Ivan Seeking Registered Senior Member

    Ken, very informative post! I am more enthusiastic about fission than I have been since Three Mile Island. The new designs are much better but some of the core problems are still there. However, the work at Zap Energy is really exciting. They are pursuing Z-pinch fusion reactor technology which has actually been around since the 1950s. The trouble was that they could never get the pinch to stabilize. Eric Meier, the CEO, seems to think they have it because of the computing power available today - highly complex plasma modeling. Whether he is right or wrong. we should know soon. He is predicting commercial scale production levels in two years. Apparently it is clean, safe, 100 times cheaper than a Tokomak core, and has no radioactive byproducts to worry about. I don't think the Nuclear Regulatory Commission even needs to get involved because AFAIK, they don't use any radioactive materials. And no batteries required. I believe at least several other companies are on this path as well.

    300,000 amp plasma current and 30 Tesla fields! Damn that sounds fun! But play aside, the more I learn about this place the more excited I get. This has only hit my RADAR over the last few months.

    A not so funny aside, an associate of mine just helped with some of the final clean up at Three Mile Island - over forty years after the fact.

    As for politics, it is hard to beat old money. But all things shall pass. And the younger generation will be attacking with pitchforks if the old guard continues to block solutions where solutions exist. However, electric alone will not solve all problems unless it is so abundant that we can afford to produce carbon neutral gasoline, kerosine, and diesel using electric power. This is technically possible if we have the energy to do it. But unless fusion makes electric power insanely inexpensive, I still believe we must have viable biofuels such as fuels from algae to completely rid the world of fossil fuels. We won't be flying electric commercial aircrafts, or operating large electric ships and heavy equipment for a very long time, I think. It won't be economically viable, which means the petro man wins again. Even electric cars are quickly finding limits and have gained a reputation of being cars for rich people.

    A three-sentence explanation of Z-pinch fusion: Very high currents flowing in plasma are driven to the center of the stream by Lorenz forces. This is the pinch. The forces involved can be great enough to cause nuclei in the stream to fuse.

    Apparently they have been producing neutrons for quite some time now indicating that fusion did occur. Very exciting and fascinating stuff. It is also very elegant which always catches my attention. No magnets needed.

    One other path that comes to mind: Given enough cheap electric power, CO2 capture becomes more practical. Maybe we can live with some fossil fuels if we have the ability to remove the carbon from the atmosphere by other means. Carbon capture as such has never made sense to me but some people thing is can be practical. We just need very inexpensive and clean energy from other sources to do it.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2024
  8. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    I am on another forum and every climate change post I have put on gets pounced on so I stopped. I DMd one of the downers, a verified expert in maths and physics like yourself. He made me think a little bit, he was not denying climate change, just our contribution.
    The premise was along the lines of, with so many inputs how do you extract our contribution?
  9. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    I am not for a minute saying I am knowledgeable on this.
  10. Ivan Seeking Registered Senior Member

    I'm not a climate expert either. That is why I leave it up to the experts. Any internet jockey who thinks they know more than these folks is a crackpot. If they want to understand the facts, tell them to get an appropriate Ph.D. Then they can start publishing papers if they disagree. When they have a volume of published papers [in top-notch and appropriate journals] that successfully challenges the vast consensus, then they can talk. Until then they are just being arrogant and ignorant. If they want real answers, why are they wasting their time on the internet arguing with other non experts? The IPCC has volumes and volumes of information that describes the science and the interpretation of that science, in great detail. If they aren't smart enough to find, read, and understand that, they certainly don't have any valid opinions.

    Statement on Climate Change from 18 Scientific Associations
    "Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver." (2009)2

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      American Association for the Advancement of Science
      "Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening." (2014)3

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      American Chemical Society
      "The Earth’s climate is changing in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and particulate matter in the atmosphere, largely as the result of human activities." (2016-2019)4

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      American Geophysical Union
      "Based on extensive scientific evidence, it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. There is no alterative explanation supported by convincing evidence." (2019)5

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      American Medical Association
      "Our AMA ... supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant." (2019)6

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      American Meteorological Society
      "Research has found a human influence on the climate of the past several decades ... The IPCC (2013), USGCRP (2017), and USGCRP (2018) indicate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century." (2019)7

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      American Physical Society
      "Earth's changing climate is a critical issue and poses the risk of significant environmental, social and economic disruptions around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century." (2015)8

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      The Geological Society of America
      "The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases ... Human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013)." (2015)9
    International Academies: Joint Statement
    "Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001)." (2005, 11 international science academies)10

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      U.S. National Academy of Sciences
      "Scientists have known for some time, from multiple lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions."11
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      U.S. Global Change Research Program
      "Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities." (2018, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies)12
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      Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
      “It is unequivocal that the increase of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere over the industrial era is the result of human activities and that human influence is the principal driver of many changes observed across the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere.

      “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”13-17
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2024
    Ken Fabian and Pinball1970 like this.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    What does he think has changed so significantly in the natural world since the industrial revolution, to account for global warming?
  12. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    I did not ask, I did not want a DM debate. Easier to stick to things I know.
  13. Ken Fabian Registered Member

    An argument from incredulity? I am not much interested in chasing Doubt, Deny, Delay misinformation and arguments down rabbit holes into their Alt-reality - enough to say that I do trust our leading science agencies on this very important subject. They do appear to have given consideration to - and sought to quantify - every conceivable influence on climate as well as identify and quantify their feedbacks and interactions. It is the success of climate modeling as a tool for tracking the complex interactions that is why there is so much effort to portray it falsely as some kind of fancy CGI made by evil scientists to mislead and deceive; it isn't because climate modelers get so much wrong, but because they keep getting so much right.

    My own view is there is a duty by those holding highest Offices to take the science based expert advice on it seriously - especially given governments commissioned the science studies and reports explicitly in order to make informed choices on this - and highest courts should be holding them to their duty of care.

    Hopelessly naive of me of course; my nation's government and our highest court seem to disagree - Australia's Minister for the Environment successfully argued in court that her Office has no duty of care to consider climate impacts from emissions when approving new coal, gas, oil mining. And because it is primarily for sale outside Australia they say there is no Australian responsibility for the emissions resulting - under emissions accounting frameworks in use, the framework the Australian government agreed to (and possibly helped create) - and they would just buy it from somewhere else - drug dealer defenses.

    This is from a government/party that ostensibly supports zero emissions commitments - but they cannot bring themselves to do anything explicitly anti fossil fuels and they continue to give regulatory, subsidy and other support to fossil fuel companies (including direct funding of greenwash CCS) to expand their businesses. The conservative-right alternative says stuff too, but make their insincerity a feature - we don't deny climate change... the climate is always changing, ha, ha.

    On CCS - I think it will never work at large scale because the scale is so enormous. And it costs a lot of money and energy. All very well to imagine we can do it cheaply and easily but I seriously doubt it.

    The basic arithmetic that makes me conclude it is unworkable is for every ton of fossil fuels burned there is 2 to 3 tons of CO2 emitted.

    It should be more than that but combustion is inefficient - and the accumulated excess of CO2 in the atmosphere is staggeringly huge. We make more CO2 than any other kind of waste, more than all other waste combined, several times over; CCS would need to become the single largest industry in the world to be effective and must do so entirely funded by taxation or levies on industry. Oil and gas companies are offering to do it for us - so kind of them - so long as they are paid with tax money and they don't have to remove CO2 equivalent to their emissions or pay for any of it out of their own revenues.

    The only "working" CCS project in Australia is not to reduce emissions from burning the gas the Gorgon project produces, but to remove CO2 from the gas to make it burn better and more saleable. Not only subsidized out of emissions reductions funding but failing to meet the very modest capture and storage targets set.

    Needless to say I think the growth of renewables and the emissions reductions they are delivering are not a result of deep planning and forethought and commitment from our government(s). Until renewables started being taken up purely on economics their support for them was mostly rhetorical and empty gesture, whilst being no threat (because it was no threat) to fossil fuels. That political weakness is changing as the real world impacts of climate change become more severe; handing it off to public opinion, where Advertising, PR and Tankthink stand on equal footing with the top science agencies was intended to dodge the issue - but may end up deciding it after all.
  14. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

    I have not had a chance to get into it. TBH I have been lazy on this subject. I need to catch up with the consensus the mechanics of it (I know the basics) and latest research.
  15. sculptor Valued Senior Member


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