7 billion and counting
With the world’s population passing 7 billion there have been reports and analysis all over the media.
George Monbiot, clear-headed as usual, says the real problem is consumption. He also takes a look at the UN calculations, and is not impressed, but one way or another the graph is going to go up for about four decades.
Fred Pearce is not an economist, but he may have a point in saying that ageing is the trend and with that your economy goes down the tube. Japan has become the land of the setting sun.
Population and dust-bowlification
Climate Progress has a post on the world’s population passing 7 billion, highlighting the need for women to have the power to control their own fertility. The post links to several other posts, including one on Joe Romm’s article in Nature on the looming dust-bowlification of large areas of the planet. It includes this image;
A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought. Go here for an enlargement.Strange, that blue/green patch in Africa.
This image tells roughly the same story for the USA:
Science in America
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann thinks global warming is a hoax, Rick Perry thinks the science is not settled and here’s Mitt Romney, the one John Quiggin thinks likeliest to get the nomination:
When leading candidate Mitt Romney said: “I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer… humans contribute to that”, conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh responded with “Bye bye, nomination”. Romney back-pedalled, saying, “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”
From this article we are told that he always believed climate change was occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn’t know to what extent.
It’s just that he used to think that it was worth spending money on mitigation but now he doesn’t.
Much splendid science is done in America and scientists are held in high regard, ahead of doctors and second only to fire fighters. But some areas of science are highly politicised. Apparently 96 of 100 new Republican Congress members are climate change deniers or have signed pledges to oppose its mitigation.
This graph is a bit of a shock:
The claim is made that the more educated we become the more we adopt the views of our cultural group. The messenger is important. Al Gore has probably done more to turn Republicans against climate science than anyone.
An inconvenient graph
You may have seen temperature plotted against CO2 for the last 800,000 years. Here’s a scary one for CO2:
To find the source go here and download Global Climate Change.
Of course the relationship between CO2 levels and temperature is not linear. You have to introduce the notion of climate sensitivity. Fast-feedback sensitivity is considered to be 3°C for doubled CO2. See this post for more detail. Nevertheless the graph highlights what violence we are doing to the earth system in what is an instant of geologic time.
DESERTEC switches on
DESERTEC, a 20-member consortium headed by Deutsche Bank, Siemens, the Munich Re insurance giant and energy heavyweight E.on plans to build solar thermal power plants across 34,740 square miles of the Sahara from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.
Nine European countries – Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Britain – have drawn up plans to link clean energy projects around the North Sea within the next decade by means of a high-voltage direct current network within.
Meanwhile Swedish company Vattenfall plans to sue Germany for compensation for closing down two of their nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.
Hardening our coal addiction
Fred Pearce suggests that delegates to the Durban climate conference should take a trip up the coast to Richards Bay, a huge deep-water harbour that is home to the world’s largest coal export terminal.
When the [climate] talks began half a decade ago, 25 percent of the world’s primary energy came from coal. The figure is now 29.6 percent. Between 2009 and 2010, global coal consumption grew by almost 8 percent.
Last year global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 5.8%, marginally exceeding the global rise in energy consumption. Coal is the reason.
Global production is set to rise by 35% in the coming decade. Indonesia is set to surpass us as the world’s largest coal exporter.
BTW, Pearce says that Britain is scaling back on its green energy investments.
Fossil fuel subsidies
The situation is complicated, but Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator reckons the effective coal subsidy in NSW amounts to around $4 billion each year. International fossil fuel subsidies amount to around half a trillion dollars each year.
Meanwhile Opposition finance minister Andrew Robb last week reckoned that subsidising clean energy was like putting money on the horses. Subsidising Big Oil in the US, it seems, is justified by Republicans as rewarding success.
Is CSG cleaner than coal?
Climate Spectator discusses a WorleyParsons report on the life-cycle emissions of CSG exported to China compared to coal.
The first thing to understand is that China doesn’t close older coal plants in favour of CSG, so the comparison should be with newer, cleaner coal-fired plants. In this case the ultra-supercritical coal power plants are comparable to open-cycle gas plants in terms of life-cycle emissions. Combined-cycle CSG plants have a base case of 0.55t/Co2e for every MWh compared to ultra-supercritical coal plants with 0.78t/Co2e.
In exporting gas 22% of the life-cycle emissions occur in Australia, compared to 2.7% for export coal.
In Australia by locating the power plant near the gas field you could save on the liquefaction process. John D reckons Santos said this takes 10% of the energy in gas. The bottom line appears to be that if you are replacing old coal-fired plants in Australia with gas you would still be making savings.
This is how the Fairfax regional papers tell the story.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW says that the Government should commission its own report as WorleyParsons is involved in the construction of gas powered power plants worldwide.