Climate clippings 68

1. Planning for storm surges

It seems the trickiest bit of planning for sea level rise is dealing with the increased risk of storm surges. Scientists have been taking a look at New York City.

The biggest they know about was a 3.2 metre surge in 1821, a one in 500 year event. Most buildings have a 60 to 120-year usable lifespan. With a 3-foot rise a once a century surge of 5.7 feet above tide level could occur every three to 20 years.

2. The world’s most beautiful mosque may be vulnerable

The world’s most beautiful mosque may be vulnerable to rising seas. I assume they would have thought of storm surges.

One thing that continues to bother me is the notion that we need to provide for one metre of sea level rise by 2100. What I read indicates a consensus midpoint of about 1.2 metres. I’m not so worried about the 0.2, but it is surely foolish not to take account of the risk that the level may exceed 1.2. The midpoint has become the maximum as far as I can see.

3. Cost of renewables

At BraveNewClimate a post by Peter Lang critiques a paper Simulations of Scenarios with 100% Renewable Electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market by Elliston et al. (2011a). It’s quite detailed and technical. The bottom line is:

Despite the lack of costings, the EDM-2011 study is a useful contribution. It demonstrates that, even with highly optimistic assumptions, renewable energy cannot realistically provide 100% of our electricity generation. The baseline simulation does not have sufficient capacity to meet peak winter demand, has no capacity reserve, and is dependent on a technology – gas turbines running on biofuels – that currently exist only at small scale and at high cost.

Lang made an estimate of cost and concluded:

The costs for the simulated 100% renewable electricity system are estimated to be $568 billion capital cost, $336/MWh cost of electricity and $290/tonne CO2 abatement cost. That is, electricity would cost seven times more than now, and CO2 abatement cost would exceed current carbon prices by 13 times the starting price for the Australian carbon tax and 30 times the European carbon price (at time of writing).

The electricity supply would be unreliable.

Any largely renewable electricity system for the NEM would be high cost, as demonstrated here.

4. Trainer looks at Grattan

Also at BNC Ted Trainer takes a look at the Grattan Report on renewable energy technologies. He also finds 100% renewables as prohibitively expensive. A big problem, he says is that the report doesn’t look at the real problem of covering all intermittency. He says no-one has analysed the data sufficiently in Australia, but in Europe you can find several days at a time when there is negligible sun and wind.

The answer for Ted is no surprise. We can’t sustain high energy societies:

Trainer 2010b and 2011 detail the case that the limits to growth predicament cannot be solved by technical reforms to or within consumer-capitalist society and that there must be radical social transition to some kind of “Simpler Way”. This vision includes developing mostly small and highly self-sufficient local economies, abandoning the growth economy, severely controlling market forces, shifting from representative to participatory democracy, and accepting frugal and cooperative lifestyles.

5. Wave and tidal power

The UK is concerned about losing its lead in wave and tidal power according to a Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee report.

Seven of the the eight full-scale prototype devices installed worldwide are in UK waters, making the country the current world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy technologies.

The government has also recognised that marine power could provide up to 27GW of capacity in the UK by 2050, much of which is expected to be deployed after 2020.

But the report warns that an overly cautious approach to deployment may allow other less risk-averse countries to steal the UK’s lead.

6. Hansen’s hyperbole(?) on tar sands

This report on the actual effect on the climate of burning the Canadian tar sands gets stuck into Hansen and McKibben for their hyperbole.

This is what what Hansen said. I’m not sure there is anything he needs to resile from there if you read carefully what he says.

This report puts the emphasis perhaps where it should be. If we burn all the world’s coal the temperature will go up by 15C.

7. Speaking of coal

China increased its consumption of coal by 9.7% and 11% for natural gas. There was also some good news:

Overall energy consumption per unit of GDP declined another 2% — continuing the 19.1% decline in energy intensity since 2005. In addition, solar installations increased by an astonishing 547% and wind installations grew by 48% last year.

And the really bad news is that their emissions are expected to double those of the US by the mid-2020s.

Go here for some interactive graphics.

8. Land ice loss

Using satellite measurements from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), researchers have measured the loss of Earth’s land ice between 2003 and 2010.

The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth’s glaciers and ice caps during the study period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That’s enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep.

About a quarter of the average annual ice loss came from glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica (roughly 148 billion tons, or 39 cubic miles). Ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica and their peripheral ice caps and glaciers averaged 385 billion tons (100 cubic miles) a year

the estimated ice loss from high Asian mountain ranges like the Himalaya, the Pamir and the Tien Shan was only about 4 billion tons of ice annually. Some previous ground-based estimates of ice loss in these high Asian mountains have ranged up to 50 billion tons annually.

9. EV rev heads

New Scientist reports on charging around the track in electric racing cars. Apart from enjoying it they reckon new technology will be developed.

So far they are harnessing the power created when the car goes through dips and bumps, they’ve turned the car’s bodywork into a battery, installed inductive charging mats into the race track. They are also working on aerodynamics and using superior battery technology.

320kph is exciting, and impressive, and no doubt some of the technologies will find their way into production models.

8 thoughts on “Climate clippings 68”

  1. Like I once said; when the storm surge rolls up wall street, drowns a few thousand Banksters and market wankers we will see some action on climate change mitigation. Until then nada.

  2. Huggy,

    I don’t doubt the value or moral worth of being rid of the wall street banksters, but the climate problem runs even deeper and is even more intractable than the banksters problem.

    This chart says it all:!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=eg_use_elec_kh_pc&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:CHN:IND:PAK:BGD:IDN:PHL&ifdim=region&tdim=true&hl=en&dl=en

    India’s per capita electricity consumption is about a quarter of the world average and it is projected to be the most populous nation in the world. Other nations with large and growing populations are also grossly energy poor. While it is possible to believe that energy consumption of developed nations may level off or even decline a bit, it is not credible that much of the developing would will not strive to get somewhere near world average electricity consumption. With or without Wall St.

    And they are not going to pay substantially over the odds (consistent with security of supply) to get there. That does not necessarily mean coal, but for those developing nations that have large reserves the prospects of them leaving it in the ground regrettably look slim. Interestingly, Bangledesh and Vietnam both poor nations without large coal reserves are electing for some nuclear. I suspect concerns about the future cost of imported coal and it’s attendant transport infrastructure have more to do with that decision than do environmental concerns.

    I fear that in the absence of a universally cheaper alternative to coal without a carbon price, we are in for a lot more coal burning yet. It really does look bleak.

  3. Worls’s largest offshore windfarm opens in UK

    Walney actually consists of two separate projects: Walney 1, which was completed in May 2011, and the just-finished Walney 2. The project, which is a joint venture between DONG Energy, SSE and OPW, has actually set a few industry records, including the fastest construction time for an offshore wind farm—five months and 13 days for the Walney 2 portion. In all, the wind farm consists of 102 3.6-MW Siemens turbines, and will generate enough electricity to power 320,000 households annually.

    That’s an impressive achievement in construction terms, whatever one thinks of the usefulness of windfarms.

    Dong also has an even larger offshore wind project in the works: the 400-MW Anhoult wind farm off the coast of Denmark, expected to be completed by the end of 2012. The Danish state-owned company is also working with Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas to build a pilot project using a 7-MW wind turbine.

  4. The other problem I have with increasing sea levels is that they don’t jsut magically stop at 2100. That’s not some point where the climate gods go “right we’ve caused enough havoc, lets knock off now”. 1 metre or 2 metres by 2100 is still just heading towards 7 metres or 25 metres eventually.

  5. Wilful said:

    The other problem I have with increasing sea levels is that they don’t jsut magically stop at 2100.

    That’s a point that is often overlooked, and it applies equally to temperature. Even in the unlikely event that industrial-era warming is kept to +2DegC, it will continue to rise slowly for quite some time unless humanity manages to push atmospheric concentrations back down to about 280ppmv.

    The broader point is that while most people would doubtless, if asked, pay lipservice to the idea that people in the 22nd century have interests that we in the early 21st should not subvert, very few spend time in practice even thinking about people that far in the future, leave aside worrying if we are doing right by them.

    It’s hard enough to get people worrying about the interests of people living in 2012 in places remote from our shores who don’t speak a European language. Even 2050 seems, to most I fear, a very long time away.

  6. @ 2, this graph shows an unsustainable trend i.e. the sonic boom in Australia will not last much longer and therefore Australia needs to prepare for post-sonic-boom-times!!

    This may not be a bad thing,… but the moral is change is coming sooner rather than later: …from the simple fact that this graph shows next-to-exponential-growth and we all know this can’t happen in the long term in the real world! “SHORT TERM TRENDS ARE DEMONSTRATABLY RANDOM!” = INVESTMENT 101
    NB: Bottlenecks are something the bloke from BEYOND ZERO talks about incessatly at his public lectures.

    If you get one thing from them it is that BOTTLENECKS RESULTING FROM EVERYONE REALISING AT THE SAME TIME THAT THEY HAVE TO EMBRACE RENEWABLE NOW is going to be the issue of the early half of the 21st century….

  7. wilful and Fran, I understand that at some point the world’s sandy beaches will pretty much disappear, and then won’t be regained on a human time scale.

    Fran, Hansen reckons 350ppm first and by then we’ll probably work out how far we have to go. He says the earth’s albedo is greater than it was pre-industrially, for example, so we may not have to go right back to 280ppm.

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