Climate clippings 55

WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

The World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin has just been released. These graphs show the ‘progress’ of the main gases.

The WMO is agnostic about the reason for the increase in methane emissions, but in this ABC story Paul Fraser from the CSIRO tells us what they are thinking and it’s not good news.He says that the increase of methane is coming from high and low attitudes, which seems to indicate that northern permafrost and tropical wetlands may be the source.

The story also looks at HFCs and refrigeration. As linked on the last thread, go here to Figure 2.21 for the IPCC’s graph on forcings.

The IPCC on extreme weather

In case you missed the link in the last thread, Roger Jones looks at the IPCCs release on extreme weather. The story is too complex to summarise here. You have to be careful about terms and definitions in saying anything.

Already the report illustrates what for me is the biggest problem with the IPCC process.

The cycle of scientific research, publication and assessment means that events occurring over the past two years will not be included in the report.

Then for another six years responsible organisations will quote the unfortunately out of date report as representing the received position. Irresponsible organisations such as most of our media will spin it immediately and mercilessly, as they already are.

I loved the fogged up windscreen image, which led me to ask, which is clearer, the past or the future? I’d incline to the latter, providing we keep to generalities.

Here are some maps of dry days and soil moisture and very useful summary information plus some academic commentary.

Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!

BTW that’s a German drinking song which is better if you’ve had a few.

A few weeks ago we were told that coffee was at risk from climate change. Now it’s beer!

Forbes has a roundup of reactions from business and financial leaders to the aforementioned IPCC report on extreme weather. It includes this:

“For our brewery, growth depends on abundant clean water and quality barley and hops—and climate change puts those ingredients at risk. Our supply chain—including barley, hops and water—is especially vulnerable to weather in the short-term and to climate change in the long-term.” Jenn Orgolini, Sustainability Director, New Belgium Brewing Co, the third-largest craft brewing company in the U.S.

Funds for climate mitigation and adaptation will now surely flow freely!

Use of groundwater in power generation

Climate Progress has a post on the parlous situation of water availability and its use in power generation. See also John D’s comment.

In the US “so many plants rely on water-cooling that they accounted for 41 percent of the withdrawals of freshwater in the United States in 2005”.

Texas is in structural water deficit now and it’s only going to get worse.

Joe Romm added a comment about the large amounts of water used in fracking in gas production, up to 13 million litres to stimulate a well.

It’s hard to get a handle on the situation here, but in this post the figure going around was that CSG operators were planning to extract up to 350,000 megalitres of ground water against a sustainable yield of 71,960 Ml/yr. I understand that we are no closer to knowing how much they will use and also that there are no controls put on them by the Queensland Government.

Additionally, I understand that water is required for coal washing. The Xstrata mine at Wandoan is scheduled to produce more coal than the Hunter Valley. If water is required for coal washing I have no idea where it would come from. Does anyone know?

BHP’s Texan water torture

Readers may know the BHP Billiton recently bought into US shale gas in a big way, apparently paying about $15 billion. According to Climate Spectator they also bought into the Texan water problem. And they don’t actually have a solution to the problem. Buyer beware!

The article also tells us that China also has a problem:

HSBC earlier this month issued a startling report documenting the water crisis facing China, where it said 14 provincial economies could be at risk from water stress because they are heavily reliant on manufacturing; and three provinces that account for half of China’s wheat production – Henan, Shandong and Hebei – were suffering from extreme water scarcity.

“We believe the challenges are so severe that to meet tough new environmental targets some provinces ­ including powerhouse Guangdong ­ may have to change the make-up of their economies,” the HSBC analysts wrote.

The Brits look at shale gas

Britain is the latest to be tempted by the shale gas siren.

But the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research warned that exploiting even a fifth of this gas would generate so much carbon dioxide that the government’s greenhouse gas emission targets would be rendered unreachable.

They too could end up with a landscape something like this.

New battery technology

Sooner rather than later, I suspect, it’s going to happen – battery technology that makes it possible to store intermittent power sources to allow us to get away from gargantuan grids and base-load power.

From Science Daily:

Stanford researchers have used nanoparticles of a copper compound to develop a high-power battery electrode that is so inexpensive to make, so efficient and so durable that it could be used to build batteries big enough for economical large-scale energy storage on the electrical grid — something researchers have sought for years.

Seems it will charge and discharge rapidly and practically last forever.

Sustainable air travel?

Mark Lynas has an article on new aviation fuels. Virgin are looking at a process where waste carbon monoxide gas produced by steel manufacturing and other industries is chewed up by microbes to form ethanol which is then converted by another process into hydrocarbons “chemically indistinguishable from fossil-derived kerosene.”

British Airways is looking at a process which “uses plasma gasification to produce syngas from [mumicipal] waste, which is then catalytically converted into synthetic liquid biofuels.”

Neither of these is strictly carbon neutral as they merely intercept what would become a greenhouse gas from human activity and get a double use out of it on the way.

Still it beats many biofuels and may salve consciences in the Maldives, depending economically as they do on air travel.

62 thoughts on “Climate clippings 55”

  1. The gas graphs are interesting. The dip in the CH4 release rate has to be linked to the period when New Zealand reduced their sheep (farting and belching) stocks. There was a time when there were 20 sheep per person in NZ.

    My business partner has just returned from a week in Shanghai and reports China’s water shortage to be of great concern for the government.

    On bio fuels from one of my favourite people

    http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/nasas-omega-scientist-dr-jonathan-trent/

  2. Brian,

    Regarding use of cooling water by power stations, here is a fuller quote from the NYT article referred to by Climate Progress:

    Newer plants include air-cooling or “dry cooling” technologies, but so many plants rely on water-cooling that they accounted for 41 percent of the withdrawals of freshwater in the United States in 2005, according to the United States Geological Survey.

    That said, they return a great deal of the water they use, usually to rivers — although in the case of some California plants like Diablo Canyon, the cooling water is taken from and returns to the Pacific Ocean.

    Yet some water is inevitably lost to evaporation or otherwise never gets back to the rivers.

    So, the 41% figure, taken out of context by Climate Progress, is highly misleading. I don’t know what the net withdrawal (ie the water lost to evaporation) would be. Much lower than 41%, I suspect.

  3. Brian/Huggy,

    Huggy’s link provides the numbers for water consumed by power stations: about 1000 litres per MWh generated, or 1 litre per kWh.

    So a typical household consuming 10kWh/day of electricity is, indirectly, using around 10 litres of water daily, compared to the (say) 500 litres per day of household water consumption. Big deal!

  4. Given that the Earth has about the same quantity of water as it had 4.4billion years ago … nobody “consumes” water. They just move it about or render it less potable. Putting it back to its original use value requires (typically) energy. It’s the energy load that is salient.

    Nuclear plants sited at the coast can use the ocean as heat sinks so that water conversion is not germane. By contrast, a geothermal or solar thermal plant will use quite a lot that will be difficult to return to the system. If you can site therm renewable plants at the coast, then that’s fine, but often you can’t.

  5. Fran, the statement

    They just … render it less potable

    is kind of important when you’re talking about 41% of all freshwater demand. That water doesn’t go straight into our drinking supply afterwards but needs to be recycled through a system, so at least some of that 41% needs to be seen as a reduction in the available supply, especially in places like Australia.

    Remember the debate about the desalination plant in Sydney? One point was that in order to make water with it, a large amount of water needed to be drawn out of our total supply to support the extra energy generation demands.

    This is I think one of the great possibilities in renewables – they demand less water, and cause less thermal pollution.

  6. Re: “New battery technology”

    The real problem for renewable energy technologies has never been the initial generation of energy, that is a relatively easy engineering exercise.

    The real problem has always been storing the excess energy from those typically intermittent generation sources, for use during periods when these sources are not generating adequate levels of energy.

    Solve the storage problem, and the rest will fall into place.

  7. sg said:

    Remember the debate about the desalination plant in Sydney? One point was that in order to make water with it, a large amount of water needed to be drawn out of our total supply to support the extra energy generation demands.

    The trick is to use sub-potable water for such applications. Nobody ‘manufactures’ water. One does process and distribute it, so the fundamental cost is energy.

    Plainly, it’s far more energy-efficient (and cheaper ceteris paribus)if you can avoid having to move water about and keep processing to a minimum. Providing you can have water delivered at the right quality and scale, recycling and reuse makes sense, and thus any process that renders water less available at the required quality needs to account for that cost in feasibility.

    Assuming you can use a non-thermal source — wind for example — to restore non-useable water to useable status, that’s a good thing, but the kinds of objection that one can make to fossil thermal or nuclear plants on the basis of water usage apply with equal or greater force to site-limited sources like geothermal or solar thermal. OTOH, if you can site the plant (whatever it is) at the ocean shore perhaps in tandem with a sewage treatment works or similar then the water management issue isn’t as problematic. In the case of a nuclear plant of course the marginal fuel cost and emissions costs are tiny, meaning that water can be had for a very modest community cost indeed.

  8. Fran,

    the technical terms are extraction and consumption. If it is extracted and returned largely unchanged as in hydro and can be used for another purpose, it is extracted. If it is extracted and altered in some way, water is consumed. In the water use cycle, these terms and concepts do matter (also for water balance and water accounts).
    Only recently have alternative and closed systems become commonplace in energy generation as production has traditionally sought lowest possible input cost.

  9. Thanks for the metalanguage Roger. Personally, I don’t like the term “consumption” of water for what you describe, as it seems to imply some sort of permanent conversion from potential use.

    I’m not sure what a better term would be though — perhaps “despoilment”.

  10. `Yep Fran , site nuclear generating plants on the coast? Does any particular site in Japan come to mind?
    Water use in generating plant is a complex function of thermal efficiency, for instance a once though gas turbine peaking plant will use no water at all. a combined cycle plant will need cooling water for the steam cycle (Condenser).
    Nukes need a lot of water to just keep the spent fuel from burning up and to assist with the really crap thermal efficiency. Wind and tidal use no water at all.
    Point is that the return of warm water from a very large cooling process is environmentally damaging , it causes all sorts of adverse consequences from the growth of algal blooms to the destruction of aquatic habitats for certain species. Likewise desal plants have to create a large saline plume that is often toxic to certain species.

    Huggy

  11. I&U: Huggy’s link had water consumption at 1.8 litres/kWh for coal power using cooling towers. It still doesn’t sound much but for our household the water required for our domestic power consumption would equate to about 8% of our domestic water consumption if we ran on 100% coal fired with cooling towers. It is also worth noting that Australia’s per capita power consumption is about 10,000 kWh/yr. For the above case the total water for this consumption equates to about 33% of our household domestic water consumption (about 150 litres per capita/day.)
    It is worth noting that water consumption of power stations using Wivenhoe water in their cooling towers was of major concern during Brisbane’s recent water supply crisis.
    It is also worth noting that solar thermal will consume about the same amount of water/kWh as coal fired (Because the power comes from steam turbines.)
    Combined cycle gas will consume about 60% less water because only about 40% of the power comes from the steam turbine.

  12. Cooling water: I agree with Fran (miracles happen: the Pope will back me up on this). The fact is that even the Greens support recycling of waste water (in theory: you never can tell what they will back down on if it ever looks like becoming beneficial common practice), and that means waste water as in actually contains lots of yucky stuff. Why is cooling water – which as the term implies is used only as a thermal sink to reduce heat in something else, not to pick up chemicals and waste products – regarded as somehow so much more damaging?

    I assume those who object to water being heated and reused always completely empty their kettles (but not of course into the actual environment) once boiled.

    Huggybunny: if there are issues with localised consequences from returning warm water from cooling processes, these can be managed locally (which is not the same thing as saying that I think they are always being managed adequately now) without holus-bolus regulation. Besides, I thought the main game was that the entire global climate system is going to hell in a handcart. Some local problems may have to be tolerated to address that. There are trade-offs in any policy decisions.

    The argument about cooling water being a problem of “really crap thermal efficiency” is interesting too. Perhaps the solution is not in cooling water processes, but in increasing the thermal efficiency of energy production, as next generation nuclear is doing. The disposal of salt produced in desalination is interesting too; it is just entirely irrelevant to a discussion of cooling water and energy production.

  13. Er, can I enter a meek query as to whether the ban issued in the climate clippings 54 thread on any further discussion of the Climate Commissioner, shock jocks, and the Australian still holds on this thread?

    Cos there have been some new assertions in the last 24 hours that don’t look too good for – well, I won’t say, because if there is still a ban that would probably infringe. I assume, perhaps hopefully, that a mere query without any specifics will not of itself trigger anything.

  14. Because of the chemicals they put in the cooling water to kill bacteria, Wozza. Heard of legionaire’s disease, or watched Ellen Brokovitch?

  15. There is no need to use any water. The need is for the appropriate regulation and/or price signal to use rankine or kalina cycle to generate power from waste heat.

  16. And I’ll agree with Wozza @13.

    Energy and industrial processes have spare heat that is often wasted. One of the resource maps that a city or industrial area can develop is waste heat. Using that in complementary processes saves energy. The problem it is less economically efficient for each purpose on its own (with the environment wearing the externalities) but more efficient when added together (including externalities). Straightforward costing and current regs often do not cover this. I understand this multiple-use strategy is used with small co-gen in London.

    Closed water cycle management is tricky as huggy alludes to. Hot water comes out of the plant, cool water needs to go in. The warmer the intake water, the less efficient it is. In Iran a decade ago looking at their adaptation options, one of their largest looming problems for oil-driven generators was warm intake water (very close to the useful threshold in some cases). This requires all sorts of tricky tech that I don’t know the details of but I’m sure people here do. Misting and collection is one method but it takes energy.

    All this points to an industrial ecology. At a workshop in Bendigo last week we discussed that with respect to future planning in the region that included low carbon tech, spatial planning and adaptation to climate change. What do those guys have? Limited water but heaps of thermal mass below the city in the form of old gold mines that have air and water that can be pumped around. Options need to be assessed more creatively than they are now.

  17. SG,

    You will have to revoke the 2nd law of thermodynamics if you want to generate power without producing any waste heat.

  18. John D,

    You are not comparing like with like. Compare total power station water consumption with total water consumption (including irrigation and commercial/industrial use) and I am sure you will find that PS consumption is not material.

    The Wivenhoe/Tarong situation is interesting. I think that the problem is that Tarong PS draws water, via a pipeline, from Wivenhoe reservoir (or did, I think it now uses waste water) and then discharges its water into the local river, which is then lost to the ocean. Presumably, a second pipeline could have been built to discharge the water back into the Wivenhoe reservoir but that must have been considered uneconomic.

    I don’t know how many other power stations in Australia would similarly divert water in this way. But if they do, that substantially changes the equation.

  19. @ 18, master of the bleeding obvious you are. The temperature at which steam is condensed is high enough to generate electricity and there are units in operation and available for operation now.

  20. Salient Green: Both the Kalina and Rankine cycles require cooling. It is possible to use air cooling but this reduces power station efficiency because cooling water allows the condenser/absorber to run at lower temperatures. (For air cooling the condenser temperature will be above the ambient air temperature. If cooling towers are used the condenser temperature only has to be above the wet bulb temperature. The wet bulb temperature is only as high as the ambient temperature at 100% humidity.
    Bilb: The old Wangi power station cooling water outlet used to be a marvelous fishing spot – the warm water acted as a fish magnet. not sure what chemicals were used to stop fouling. Keep in mind that high efficiencies require the cooling water discharge to be as cool as possible.

  21. John D, of course they bloody well require cooling! But they don’t require water, not at all. FFS. Instead of pumping the remaining heat into cooling tower water and air, use it to boil a refrigerant. It’s waste heat. It costs nothing except environmental damage but will make or save money and the environment if captured.
    http://transpacenergy.com/

  22. Salient Green: I have no argument with the idea of extracting extra energy from waste heat using things like the Epogen system you linked to or something like the Kalina cycle. However, both of these systems require a cooling system to remove unused heat. For example, the Epogen link said that

    The regenerator recycles residual heat while unconverted heat is discharged from the system through a water or air-cooled condenser.

    The second law of thermodynamics limits overall system efficiency for anything above the microscopic scale to what can be achieved using the Carnot cycle. The efficiency penalties of using air cooling is mentioned @21.

  23. And again you state the bleeding obvious. What’s your point? Yes they require cooling. Yes the law limits efficiency. Yes the system may be more efficient using water, but not necessarily so. I already knew all this. So what?
    Non of this negates my point that there is no need to use water in power generating plants AND more energy can be extracted from fuel, at a profit, by using a refrigeration cycle to condense steam.

  24. I&U: Wikapedia had this to say about the Tarong water supply:

    Water is supplied via pipeline from Boondooma Dam, west of Proston and Wivenhoe Dam. However due to drought conditions persisting, the Queensland Government directed the plant to stop taking water from Wivenhoe Dam from the 1 March 2006.[2] These water supply problems reduced electrical output to less than half of maximum capacity.[3] In 2007, the Western Corridor Recycled Water Project began delivery of recycled water to the power station allowing electical output to increase again.[4]

    The plant appears to be using cooling towers so i doubt that much water is being added back into the river.
    This link says that water consumption is about 800 l/s to make up evaporation losses. (Approx 25 gl/yr) Big enough to become a real problem in a drought.

  25. Which brings us the full circle John D to my post @ 16 where I said there is a need for appropriate regulation or price signal.

    Although the conversation started with water, it is in fact only one of the concerns. Green house gas intensity, other pollution, declining EROEI due to depletion of fuels and future substitution are all costs which are currently not factored in and will be much larger than they need to be because we are not making use of all the energy which could reasonably be extracted from the fuel.

  26. The following energy generating techniques use no water at all:
    Wind
    Photo-Voltaic
    Tidal
    Fuel cell
    Gas turbine
    Diesel Engine

    Nuclear uses about 5 times the amount of water (l/kWh) that is used by fossil fuel.

    Huggy

  27. “”””The following energy generating techniques use no water at all:
    Wind
    Photo-Voltaic
    Tidal
    Fuel cell
    Gas turbine
    Diesel Engine””””

    If you neglect the manufacturing of em, yes.

    (sorry,Huggy, couldn’t help it)

  28. #29 Huggy,

    Nuclear uses about 5 times the amount of water (l/kWh) that is used by fossil fuel.

    Only if you compare once through type cooling for nuclear to closed cycle cooling for fossil fuel. Which would be a bit ridiculous and misleading. Comparing like for like, nuclear (water moderated reactors) uses about 1.5 times as much water as fossil fuel.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/2006-07/07rn12.pdf

    Some of the new small modular reactors may optionally used air-cooled condensers:

    http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sc=2054744

    Which offers great flexibility in siting.

  29. That Xstrata coal mine at Wandoan must be one whopper if it is destined to produce more coal than the Hunter Valley – currently exporting some 120 million tonnes/annum. Guess if it depends on your definition of the HV …
    On new battery developments Ausgrid will be very interested. They have been modelling e-vehicle (Mitsubishi) range on the F3 between Sydney and Newcastle. Seems the 120+ km promise on open road/full battery usage really comes down to about 94km on this 160km stretch which for Ausgrid means re-charge stations. Even with strategic placements along this fairly hilly freeway, if you go over 80km/hr too long then you are courting trouble – easy to do on a 110km/hr dual carriage highway. The upshot is that without better battery design e-vehicle drivers will need (re) educating.
    The other big headache for Ausgrid is trying to get clients to recharge on off-peak – not easy in our ‘rush hour’ habitue. Better news on tracking the power bill to the roving car. Seems a system similar to e-tag will help keep the plug-ins and the Ausgrid bill safely tied together.

  30. Salient Green: Compared with cooling tower based systems air cooling increases both emissions and fuel consumption per kWh. Wikapedia says that typical condensate temperatures from a typical cooling tower based system is about 35 deg C. There is no real scope for recovering extra energy from this stream. The current price messages appear to be giving the right results.
    Emissions and fuel consumption can both be reduced by using ultra critical thermal power stations. At the moment it is a question of whether the life of investment in this technology will be long enough to make it worthwhile.

  31. #33 Huggy,

    Spent nuclear fuel produces about 10 kW of heat per tonne after 1 year and 1 kW per tonne after 10 years. Insignificant compared to the cooling requirements of any thermal power plant.

  32. John D, yes I see that condensers operate in near vacuum which massively reduces the temperature at which steam condenses and gives a large increase in efficiency by dragging steam through the low pressure turbine. Hard to see how an organic rankine cycle condensing at 100C could compete with that except when water is very scarce, as you said.

    Here is a dry bottoming cycle for gas turbines.
    http://wowenergies.com/GTW%20%2022-25%20Simple%20Cycle%20Power%20Recovery.pdf

    Here is a list of techniques to improve power station efficiency.
    http://www.tifac.org.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=653&Itemid=205

  33. John D,

    OK, fair enough, that Tarong PS daily water consumption of 50-80ML per day (quoted in the Courier Mail link) would relate to its true water consumption (ie evaporation), being around 2 litres of water consumed per kWh generated (being at the upper end of the range quoted in that link of Huggy’s).

    Tarong PS is 1400MW, sufficient to supply around 2m households with electricity. So, the indirect water consumption is around 25 to 40 litres per household per day, still pretty small compared with direct domestic water consumption, but significant in a drought situation.

    But still nowhere near the “40%” headline figure quoted by Joe Romm.

  34. I&U: no argument that Joe Romm clearly got it wrong.
    Salient Green: Had a look at both links. The Indian list seemed to be mainly about sensible things to do to improve availability and reduce maintenance costs.
    I am in no position to say much about the relative merits of using propane or water as the working fluid for a turbine used to recover energy from gas turbine exhausts. The amount of energy recovered by the propane based system was about the same as that recovered by the steam turbine of a CCGT system (approx. 40%). In the case of propane the turbine would operate with a higher discharge pressure due to the lower boiling point of propane. As a consequence, it should be possible to operate with a more compact turbine than what would be required for water. The same could be said for the Kalina cycle or any other cycle that uses a working fluid with a lower boiling point than water.
    Somebody who knows more about thermal power plants may have further comments.
    Progress in the efficiency of thermal power plants appears to be driven by the use of higher operating pressures and temperatures. The graph in this link implies that replacing an older sub-critical plant with an ultra critical plant will reduce both emissions and cooling water requirements by about 20%. (I am not sure whether gas turbine output temperatures are high enough to build CCGT units that are ultra critical.)

  35. JohnD,

    With Turbines it is about the operating temperature gradient. By increasing the turbine inlet temperature there is more energy available in the gas to extract above the outlet temperature. The key limitation with the inlet temperature is in the properties of the metals from which the blades are made.

    With steam turbines the final condensation temperature can be as low as 60 degC due to the condenser vacuum.

  36. I&U @ 4 and @37, household water consumption in Brisbane in recent times has been about 160 litres per person per day. I’m not sure how many persons there are in the average household.

    Pablo @ 32 on second thoughts I shouldn’t have said that the Xstrata mine at Wandoan is scheduled to produce more coal than the Hunter Valley, because that was a factoid floating around. I can’t remember where I heard it.

    I’ve just done a quick search and found this reference which mentions 30m tonnes pa, but I think that is just the first phase. they also discuss water supply options, which don’t appear to me large, albeit brought from a considerable distance, but I’d be interested in where the waste water goes.

  37. Pablo, more on Wandoan:

    The Wandoan mine is big. Really big. The initial approval is for 30 million tonnes of coal per year, with some speculation that it could grow to be up to 100 million tonnes per year. To put this into perspective, the largest coal mine in Australia currently produces around 20 million tonnes of coal each year.

  38. Great summary as usual.
    This is one of my ‘must reads and I often put people onto it for a quick summary of what is happening.

    Keep it up, thanks.

  39. Brian: Most of the water consumed by coal preparation is lost to dust suppression, evaporation, product, fine tailings and coarse reject. There is no waste water stream as such. Water recovered from tailings, reject and drainage goes back to the plant. Mines that go below the water table do have to pump water out of the mine. Coal mines are generally required to stop this water going outside the mine boundaries. In some cases controlled discharge is allowed when river flows are high.
    I found this detailed report on Australian water consumption details for 2000/01. Total water extracted was 72,431 gl with 2,181 gl going to households, 16,660 gl going to agriculture and 124 gl going to coal mining. Cotton and dairy each took 3000 gl. It would be hard to justify blocking Wandoan on water consumption grounds.
    It is not all that long ago that total coal exports were about 100 mt/yr.

  40. wilful, my Sharp solar panels have some sort of wizzbang coating and should only rarely need cleaning. Others require cleaning as needed but, like window cleaning, a few litres in a bucket goes a long way.

  41. Actually SG, I meant to say solar thermal.

    I don’t wash my PV panels, I just rely on rain and cop a probably trivial output reduction. But I’ve read somewhere that a concentrative solar thermal plant would really want to have their mirrors as shiny as can be, and would probably be washing them down quite regularly.

  42. Thanks for the detail Brian. You wonder if the coal company pr people will be accentuating the foreign exchange earnings of coal exports over and above the tonnage figures in the future. Just musing…

  43. Good news Jumpy: Once trade wars have started over the dumping of renewable energy products you know that climate action is becoming serious and that Bob Brown was well ahead of the pack when he started talking about green jobs.
    If the Chinese action is the icebreaker at Durban it may actually focus people’s minds on the opportunities they are missing instead of the disadvantages of acting.

  44. Thanks, Oldskeptic @ 42.

    wilful @ 44, rather than break out the champagne I’d await further studies. From the link, the Potsdam bloke said:

    “There is evidence the relationship between CO2 and surface temperatures is likely to be different [during] very cold periods than warmer.”

    Also if less than 5 or 6C produced 120m of sea level rise, we should worry.

    John D @ 43, there’s no url in that link.

    Thanks for the information about water. ican’t be objective about wandoan, as I grew up near there, was out there last weekend and see the place changing. One of my cousins was bought out and everyone is affected.

    It’s good news if the waste water doesn’t go down the Dawson River, but again one worried when there is really heavy rain.

    They are planning to mine within 2km of the centre of town, whereas Dick van Steenis says thay should allow 6km.

  45. John D @ 41: “Once trade wars have started over the dumping of renewable energy products you know that climate action is becoming serious and that Bob Brown was well ahead of the pack when he started talking about green jobs.”

    No, sorry, not going to let that go past, it’s wishful thinking at best and utter nonsense at worst.

    On the trade dispute issue specifically, anti-dumping action is almost always initiated by rent seekers, in this case the US solar industry which has lobbied Commerce to start the action to which the Chinese are responding. Why? Because it sees the huge rents aka huge public subsidies for renewable energy available, but can’t maximise them for itself because it generally can’t compete on a level playing field with China.

    And trade wars are never “good news”. They are economically damaging. They distort markets and invariably at the end of the day screw the consumer. To the extent that this dispute triggers any real action on either side – and one can at least hope both realise the potential problems and stick to huffing – it will be yet another piece of economic damage to chalk up to green policy-making.

    On the broader “green jobs”, what green jobs, at least in significant quantities without unsustainable public subsidy? Take the US, since this is a US dispute. The Washington Post reported in September that Obama’s $38.6 billion green loan program had created a mere 3,500 jobs over two years. He had predicted it would “save or create” 65,000. That’s $5.5 million per job of public money, with half the $38b spent.

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/09/15/reen-jobs%E2%80%9D-obama-created/

    The story is the same in the UK and Spain. Give me some figures on somewhere unequivocally showing real (not bought and then some by the taxpayer) green jobs.

    The irony is that 18,000 unsubsidised jobs were created in the first six months of 2011 in the natural gas industry in one US state – Pennsylvania – alone. Oil and gas accounts for 200,000 unsubsidised nett new jobs in the US in the last few years. There’s real jobs in energy all right, just not in green energy.

  46. Wilful @44,

    from what I gather, they ran the model with some of the important forcings fixed and explored the sensitivity of atmospheric variables. A download is available from the first author’s main page at OSU. That is, dust, vegetation and ice uncertainties were not represented and atmospheric ones were (lapse rate, water vapour and clouds). Above a 6C sensitivity, Earth snowballed. The results underestimated cooling in Antarctica, high latitudes and the land-sea difference. Sensitivity exploring dust could be worth 0.3C and it’s not clear whether ice uncertainties would make a big difference (but could). Wind fields at the last glacial maximum would have been very different and the model didn’t do those (that will underestimate high latitude cooling).

    It showed that high atmospheric sensitivity is implausible. Something James Annan has been banging on about for some time and that I agree with. Sensitivity is also probably somewhat non-linear. The sensitivity of Earth to higher CO2 includes atmospheric sensitivity (fast) and Earth-ice-ocean-albedo sensitivity (slow), so again, it suggests that runaway greenhouse at the upper end is also probably implausible (unless we really try). Slow sensitivity over thousands of years would add to the faster atmospheric sensitivity that Brian has mentioned here a number of times (from Jim Hansen).

    The experiment is useful but not complete enough to suggest the median estimate of atmospheric sensitivity of 3C at present should be reduced to say, 2.5C. My gut feeling is that their model results are biased slightly cooler by the model’s limitations. A good study, but easy to spin. But only one study and incomplete, as the authors clearly state.

  47. Wilful, further to what Roger said @ 54, you can find what Hansen thinks in this in press paper. See the Table 1 (p16) and associated text.

    Skeptical Science have summarised and repackaged what he is saying. From “What it all means”:

    The exact value of climate sensitivity depends on which feedbacks you include, the climate state you start with, and what timescale you’re interested in. While the Earth has ice sheets the total climate sensitivity to CO2 is up to 8°C: 1.2°C direct warming, 1.8°C from fast feedbacks, 1°C from greenhouse gas feedbacks, and nearly 4°C from ice albedo feedbacks. The slow feedbacks have historically occurred over centuries to millennia, but could become significant this century. Including CO2 itself as a feedback would make climate sensitivity even higher, except for the weathering feedback which operates on a geologic timescale.

    As a non-scientist I’m probably not entitled to a view, but I get the impression that a little below and above pre-industrial doesn’t engage the ice sheets to a critical degree so the Holocene was pretty stable. We seem to be at the point where the remaining ice sheets are becoming critically engaged, so that feedback alone will make a lot of difference. I suspect this is why Andrey Ganopolski of the Potsdam Institute was suggesting that we should be looking back at warmer times if we want to learn what’s likely to happen in the future.

    Here again, if you go back too far the continents were in a different place and the shape of the ocean basins was different, which would almost certainly make some difference.

  48. Brian, I know your keeping an eye on Port Natal.
    This eerie silence is starting to freak me out.
    What’s going on over there?

  49. jumpy, I have to confess I’m a bit behind the eight-ball. I’ve got an inbox full of stuff I haven’t looked at.

    The bottom line is that the first week is the week they argue about what they are going to argue about in the second week when the ministers arrive. I’m hoping to put up a roundtable post when I’ve done the next CC.

    Further to @ 54 on climate sensitivity there are very informative posts at RealClimate and Skeptical Science.

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