Climate clippings 54

Wind electricity to be fully competitive with natural gas by 2016

So says Stephen Lacey at Climate Progress:

The best wind farms in the world are already competitive with coal, gas and nuclear plants. But over the next five years, continued performance improvements and cost reductions will bring the average onshore wind plant in line with cheap natural gas, even without a price on carbon.

That’s according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. They say that cost reduces by 7% for every doubling of installed capacity, while efficiency has steadily improved. Continue reading Climate clippings 54

IEA and the energy crunch of 2017

The International Energy Association’s (IEA) World energy Outlook 2011 had only just hit the deck when it generated a political stoush, this time between Labor and The Greens.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne told The Age the report showed that there was no longer time to use gas – which is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal – as a stepping stone to renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal. ”[The outlook] is basically saying to the investment community, ‘You are going to be gambling on how long gas has got as any kind of transitional fuel’.”

However, Mr Ferguson told The Age: ”The flexibility of gas-fired technology and the fact it is the cleanest fossil fuel make it an attractive investment option.

”In addition to gas, the message I am getting firsthand out of China and India … is that coal-fired power will increase and Australia is well placed to supply coal to fuel their growing economies.”

I picked that one up in Queensland Country Life, a Fairfax paper in which they reprint articles from The Age and the SMH.

But who’s right?

Not Christine Milne, I’m afraid. She has her eye on the IEA’s 450 Scenario, but even here we find this in the IEA Factsheet:

The share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix falls from 81% in 2009 to 62% in 2035. Global demand for both coal and oil peak before 2020, and then decline by 30% and 8% respectively by 2035, relative to their 2009 levels. By contrast, natural gas demand grows by 26%, though it plateaus by around 2030.

Ferguson has his eye on what the world is actually doing.

In the Current Policies Scenario, demand [for coal] carries on rising after 2020, increasing overall by nearly two-thirds to 2035. But in the 450 Scenario, coal demand peaks before 2020 and then falls heavily, declining one-third between 2009 and 2035.

Under the New Policies Scenario (see below) coal increases to the early 2020s and then remains broadly flat. Nevertheless the increase in 2035 over 2009 is a healthy one quarter.

I’ll outline some basic concepts first, then link to some sources, followed by some discussion. Continue reading IEA and the energy crunch of 2017

Climate clippings 53

GLOBAL warming is unusual

A common response to AGW warmists is that climate has always changed and always will. It’s natural and humans have nothing to do with it. Now via Climate Progress we learn from a study by Svante Björck of Lund University that apart from general moves into and out of ice ages the hemispheres do not warm or cool in sync. When one hemisphere changes the other stays the same or moves in the opposite direction. For example he found that during the Little Ice Age in Europe there were no corresponding changes in the southern hemisphere.

Last week I posted this graph to show that we are giving the system a helluva jerk. In fact we need to go back 15 million years to find CO2 levels as high as today. (if you are concerned about Antarctic thawing be very afraid.)

However, the following graph shows that the hemispheres are not perfectly in sync now:

Hemispheric land-ocean temperatures

The northern hemisphere is pulling away. The reason, presumably, it has more land, and at higher latitudes. Continue reading Climate clippings 53

Climate clippings 52

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.

Those two are part of The Guardian’s Crowded Planet series. Our ABC has 7 challenges for 7 billion put together by 7 academics. Continue reading Climate clippings 52

Climate clippings 51

Environmental change and migration

The British Government Office for Science has published a report Foresight: Migration and Global Environmental Change (Financial Times article here) looking at displacement and migration, both internal and transnational, due to environmental factors up to 2050.

Moving can be to a place of greater vulnerability, as from drought devastated area to a flood plain, or it can be part of the solution. There is concern over vulnerable populations that can’t move. Effectively they are “trapped”.

17 million people were displaced by natural hazards in 2009 and 42 million in 2010 (this number also includes those displaced by geophysical events).

Future numbers are impossible to estimate.

For the report itself, download from here or go directly to the Executive summary.

There more at Climate Spectator. Continue reading Climate clippings 51

Climate clippings 50

This is serious!

First we were told that rising temperatures would make it difficult to grow tea in
Uganda and in Kenya, then it was going to become too hot for chocolate. Now Starbucks is warning that climate change will threaten the world supply of coffee.

This story has gone viral, but I liked this neat post. Obama should indeed do something. What Al Gore said. Continue reading Climate clippings 50

Climate clippings 48

Greenland ice loss

The rate continues to accelerate, according to Skeptical Science.

It looks ugly, but see comment 24 and the correction @ 27. Doubling the rate each decade will give you 3,200 gt each year by 2050. But that’s still only a bit less than 9mm pa of sea level rise, according to my calculations. Concerning, certainly, but not yet catastrophic. Continue reading Climate clippings 48

Ocean heat content and Earth’s energy balance

In Climate clippings 46 I thought the most important segment was the last, on Deep heat. I don’t think it attracted a single comment.

To recap, the world’s oceans have a total mass of 1.37 billion gigatonnes of water. A gigatonne of water equals a cubic kilometre.The average temperature is, I understand, 3.5C, so the capacity for storing energy in the oceans is truly massive.

Around 90% of heat trapped by greenhouse gases ends up in the ocean.

A post by Kevin Trenberth on the earth’s energy balance tells us of a study that will show that energy can easily be “buried” in the deep ocean for over a decade.

Skeptical Science
now has a post on this study, by Meehl (2011), including this graph showing periods of more than 10 years with the ocean heat content at 0-700m roughly static: Continue reading Ocean heat content and Earth’s energy balance

More on cosmic rays and clouds

You will recall that we recently had a look at work done by Dr Jasper Kirkby and others in the CERN/CLOUD project.

The possible story in my words from cosmic rays to temperature change is this.

The earth is constantly being bombarded with galactic cosmic rays (GCR), high-energy particles from exploding stars. These act on tiny particles (aerosols) of sulphuric acid and ammonia molecules which cluster together to forms “seeds” called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) from which clouds grow. Clouds are assumed to have a net cooling effect on surface temperature.

An active sun protects the Earth from GCRs to some extent. Conversely with a less active sun more cosmic rays get through. More cosmic rays mean more clouds and the cooler global temperatures.

It’s important to understand that CCNs can and do form without the assistance of GCRs, and that it is the change in GCRs operating at the margin which may or may not cause a significant change in temperature.

Every step of the way must be scientifically examined and proven. The mechanism must work, and in quantities large enough to make a difference. Continue reading More on cosmic rays and clouds

Climate clippings 47

EV motor racing is about to begin

The article is behind the paywall, but New Scientist reports Federation Internationale d’Automobile (FIA), is calling for proposals for a “Formula E”, an electric vehicle championship it hopes will kick off in 2013. They claim the series will drive EV technology, but hey, let’s have some fun along the way.

Meanwhile at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, California on 26 November, we will have the EV Cup. In this race all drivers will have the same vehicle, the iRacer (above), built by UK firm Westfield Sportscars. Each car will have 340 kilograms of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries that, for safety, are distributed around the car in eight 50-volt units. That should keep them screaming around the track for 15 to 20 minutes.

And screaming is the operative word. EV cars at speed do make a noise, but the acoustics are being designed to sound like the Pod Racers in Star Wars. Continue reading Climate clippings 47

Climate clippings 46

Herr Doktor Hüttlin’s magical Kugelmotor

From Gizmag via John D comes an invention from the Black Forest area of a spherical engine that can drive directly, generate electricity or store energy from braking in the motor itself. There seems to be considerable potential for it as a range extender in plug-in electrics.

“Pre-production prototypes of 1.18 liter capacity have been in testing for some months and power output at present is 74kW (100hp) at 3000rpm with torque up to 290Nm (213ft-lb). Dr Hüttlin expects efficiency to increase by another 40% with reduced bearing friction and optimization of the combustion. The engine weighs 62 kg and consists of only 62 parts, while a conventional engine has at least 240.” Continue reading Climate clippings 46

Climate clippings 45

Arctic ice

Let’s get this one over with. Arctic ice seems to have bottomed out on 9 September, about two weeks earlier than usual. 2011 was the second lowest on record by a thin margin. I’ll freeze the graph here for the record:

Arctic ice extent

Here’s the important bit:

The last five years (2007 to 2011) have been the five lowest extents in the continuous satellite record, which extends back to 1979. While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic. This supports the idea that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to thin. (Emphasis added)

Continue reading Climate clippings 45

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff